Kyle Rittenhouse Trial: Jury selection begins as the judge tells potential jurors: ‘This is not a political trial’

The first day of jury selection in the trial of Illinois man Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused of shooting two men deadly and wounding a third during a night of violence and unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The selection of the jury at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, proceeded slowly Monday, beginning with a brief delay in the morning for unexplained reasons. During the delay, the referee played a fake game “Jeopardy!” with potential jurors in the courtroom, something he said he sometimes does when lawyers get organized.

The jury that will ultimately be selected in the politically charged case will have to decide whether Rittenhouse acted in self-defense, as his lawyers claim, or was engaged in vigilance when he opened fire with an AR-15-like semi-automatic rifle.

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Kyle Rittenhouse goes to court to begin selecting a jury on the first day of his trial in Kenosha, Wis., Circuit Court, Monday, November 1, 2021. (Sean Krajacic / The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

Kyle Rittenhouse goes to court to begin selecting a jury on the first day of his trial in Kenosha, Wis., Circuit Court, Monday, November 1, 2021. (Sean Krajacic / The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)
(Sean Krajacic / The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

Rittenhouse, 18, risks life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge against him: first-degree murder.

He was 17 when he traveled to Kenosha, just across the Wisconsin state line from his home in Illinois, during riots that erupted in August 2020 after a white Kenosha police officer shot and wounded Jacob Blake, a black man. man, in the back. Rittenhouse said he went there to protect property after two previous nights marked by arson, gunfire and search of businesses.

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Rittenhouse is charged with fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, after Rosenbaum chased Rittenhouse across a parking lot and threw a plastic bag at him shortly before midnight.

Moments later, as Rittenhouse ran down a street, he shot and killed Anthony Huber, 26, a protester from Silver Lake, Wisconsin, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, a protester from West Allis, Wisconsin.

Spectator video recorded Rosenbaum chasing Rittenhouse, but not the shooting itself. Video showed Huber swinging a skateboard at Rittenhouse before being shot. Grosskreutz had a gun in his hand as he stepped against Rittenhouse.

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Rittenhouse faces two counts of attempted murder and one count of attempted murder along with charges of reckless endangerment and unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 years of age.

Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder speaks to the jury pool at the start of the jury selection on the first day of the trial for Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wis., Circuit Court Monday, November 1, 2021. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and injuring a third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha last year.  (Sean Krajacic / The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder speaks to the jury pool at the start of the jury selection on the first day of the trial for Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wis., Circuit Court Monday, November 1, 2021. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and injuring a third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha last year. (Sean Krajacic / The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)
(Sean Krajacic / The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

When the jury trial began, district judge Bruce Schroeder repeatedly stressed that jurors should decide the case solely on the basis of what they hear in the courtroom, warning: “This is not a political trial.”

“It was mentioned by both political campaigns and the presidential campaign last year, in some cases very, very carelessly,” he said.

The judge said Rittenhouse’s constitutional right to a fair trial, not the second amendment’s right to bear arms, would come into play, and “I do not want it to go on a siding with other issues.”

Schroeder told the potential juries that he would select 20 of them – 12 juries and eight deputies – to hear the case, which is expected to last about two weeks. He said he almost certainly will not sequester the jury.

By late afternoon, at least 28 of the approximately 150 potential jurors summoned to the trial had been fired, about a dozen of them, because they had strong opinions on the case or doubted they could be fair. Some also expressed fear of public anger against the jury, but were not immediately dismissed from the case.

Kyle Rittenhouse's mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, on the left, listens while the charges against Kyle are read at the start of the jury selection in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Circuit Court, Monday, November 1, 2021. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and injuring one third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha last year.

Kyle Rittenhouse’s mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, on the left, listens while the charges against Kyle are read at the start of the jury selection in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Circuit Court, Monday, November 1, 2021. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and injuring one third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha last year.
(Mark Hertzberg / Pool Photo via AP)

Among those rejected by the judge were a man who said he was at the scene of the protests when “it all happened” and a woman who said she knew one of the potential witnesses in the case well and would probably weigh this person’s testimony more than anyone else’s.

Another woman who said she saw a livestream video of what happened was rejected because she was not sure if she could put what she saw aside. One person was dropped from the case after she said she believes in the biblical commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” even in the case of self-defense. A man who said he had “consistently commented on news feeds and Facebook” was also apologized.

A man said his son is friends with the person who bought the gun that Rittenhouse later used for the shooting. He was not immediately dismissed by the judge.

During questioning by prosecutor Thomas Binger, some potential jurors said they left the city during the riots. Others took precautions by moving vehicles or boarding companies. One said she was given a gun to protect herself and her family.

Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, center, enters the courtroom to select the jury for the Kyle Rittenhouse case at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis, Monday, November 1, 2021. (Sean Krajacic / The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, center, enters the courtroom to select the jury for the Kyle Rittenhouse case at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis, Monday, November 1, 2021. (Sean Krajacic / The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)
(Sean Krajacic / The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

“After all that – neighbors shouting that I should not have my flag hanging, then my US flag should not be up for some reason – I let it stand and I got a gun,” the woman said.

One woman told Binger that she feared there would be frictions in her marriage if she came to a verdict that went against her husband’s opinion. The judge set aside her interrogation so far without dismissing her.

The prosecutor also moved to fire a woman who said she has a biracial granddaughter who took part in some of the protests last summer and that she could not be impartial. Rittenhouse’s lawyers had no objections.

Binger asked if any of the jurors had donated money to support Rittenhouse, or if they knew anyone who did. Nobody said that.

Defense attorney Mark Richards looks around the courtroom at the start of the jury selection on the first day of trial for Kyle Rittenhouse

Defense attorney Mark Richards looks around the courtroom at the start of the jury selection on the first day of trial for Kyle Rittenhouse
(Mark Hertzberg / Pool Photo via AP)

Rittenhouse’s lawyer got a potential jury dropped after she said she would find Rittenhouse guilty of all charges just because he carried an assault weapon. “I do not think such a weapon should belong to the general public,” the woman said.

Two potential jurors said they would be nervous about serving, though the judge assured them that precautions would be taken to keep them safe.

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“My fear is to go out of any of the court days and just wonder what we are going for,” one said. “What will our cars look like when we get out of them? Should they be cut over? Will they be damaged? Will I be able to get home safely?”

The other said she did not want to sit on the Rittenhouse jury because “no matter what, you want half the country mad at you and they react badly.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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