It was Blake’s shooting that sparked widespread protests in Wisconsin.
A juror in the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial in Wisconsin was booted from the case Thursday morning after he acknowledged that he told a tasteless joke to a deputy.
The man, referred to a juror No. 7, was dismissed after he was questioned by Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder.
The juror said his ill-attempt at humor was about Kenosha police officers shooting Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, in August 2020, a shooting that left Blake paralyzed and set off days of violent protests in Kenosha that culminated with Rittenhouse allegedly killing two protesters and wounding a third.
“It appears that the appearance of bias is present and it would seriously undermine the outcome of the case. So that in itself would be sufficient charge for discharge,” Schroeder told the juror.
The juror responded that “my feeling is it has nothing to do with the case.” He declined to retell the joke when asked to.
Earlier in the hearing, prosecutor Thomas Binger said the man told the joke to a deputy escorting him to his vehicle after court on Tuesday evening. Binger said he was told the joke went something along the lines of, “‘Why did the Kenosha police shoot Jacob Blake seven times? Because they ran out of bullets.'”
“The joke is in bad taste. There are a plethora of bad jokes out there about everything to do with all of this. This is one of them,” Binger said.
Defense attorneys initially objected to the juror being removed and asked that the panelist repeat the joke so they could hear what was allegedly said. When the juror refused, defense attorney Corey Chirafisi relented and agreed the juror should be dismissed.
“I think we’re at a disadvantage and I suppose his unwillingness could be taken in the worst light. So, based on the unwillingness at this point, I think it probably the proper course,” Chirafisi said.
The bombshell decision to remove the juror also came a day after Schroeder scolded Binger for attempting to introduce hearsay evidence into the trial.
Schroeder reminded the attorneys in the case that the trial is being televised nationwide and noted that he heard one TV news commentator saying that “‘this is the most divisive case in the country today.'”
“So, anything that undermines public confidence in what happens here is very important,” Schroeder said. “It’s important for this town, it’s important for this country to have people have confidence in the result of this trial.”
Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide. He has also pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possession of a firearm by an individual under the age of 18, and an infraction of violating a curfew that was imposed on the city at the time.
Rittenhouse, who was then 17, is accused of killing protesters Anthony Huber, 26, and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, with an AR-style semiautomatic rifle during a demonstration over the police shooting of Blake that turned violent and destructive on Aug. 25, 2020. He is also accused of severely wounding another protester, Gaige Grosskreutz, 27.
The now 18-year-old Rittenhouse of Antioch, Illinois, claims he went to Kenosha in answer to an online call for armed “patriots” to help protest lives and property in the city. Rittenhouse claims he shot the three men in self-defense.