Kyle Rittenhouse trial: From mistrial to hung jury, what are the possible outcomes and what do they mean?

If 12 members cannot reach unanimous verdict, judge can declare mistrial

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 18 November 2021 21:27
Kyle Rittenhouse draws names for jury pool in homicide trial

Over two weeks, jurors in the homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse watched more than a dozen pieces of video, including livestreams, body camera footage, aerial video from the FBI, and an interview Mr Rittenhouse gave moments before he killed two people and injured another man in the aftermath of police brutality protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year.

They also heard testimony from police, people who witnessed the shootings, the man who survived a gunshot from Mr Rittenhouse’s AR-15-style rifle, and Mr Rittenhouse himself.

Legal teams presented their closing arguments on 15 November, and 12 jurors from a pool of 18 began deliberating a verdict on 16 November.

He faces five felonies, including first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and two counts of recklessly endangering safety in the first degree, following a series of events after police dispersed a group of protesters.

Defence attorneys have argued that Mr Rittenhouse fired his gun in self-defence as “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm”. Prosecutors contend that Mr Rittenhouse provoked an already-chaotic scenario and immediately resorted to deadly force when he killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and injured Gaige Grosskreutz on 25 August 2020.

Jurors also are considering several so-called “lesser-included” charges in the event that jurors are unable to convict on the initial charges.

The relatively narrow scope of the trial has focussed largely on the moments surrounding the first and last shots fired by Mr Rittenhouse.

But the debate outside the courtroom has scrutinised why Mr Rittenhouse was even there in the first place, inserting himself into a volatile protest environment, and raised questions about Second Amendment protections, the high bar to prosecute lethal self-defence cases, and the cultural and political atmosphere that cultivates violence.

Jurors were instructed not to follow news coverage or social media. Twelve randomly selected jurors – five men and seven women – are deliberating the case.

They will convene in a private jury room until they reach a unanimous decision on the charges against Mr Rittenhouse, which could take hours or days; Judge Bruce Schroeder suggested that they are not likely to be sequestered and he does not intend to impose time restrictions as they weigh the case.

On the first day of deliberations, jurors met for more than eight hours before they were sent home. They returned on 17 November at 9am.

If the jurors cannot reach unanimous decisions on one or more of the counts against Mr Rittenhouse, Judge Schroeder can declare a mistrial.

In the event of a so-called “hung jury” in the trial, prosecutors can decide whether to drop the charges or proceed with a new case against Mr Rittenhouse.

The judge and the court clerk will make an announcement when jurors reach a verdict, which will then be read aloud in the courtroom.

Judge Schroeder suggested the court will make that announcement roughly one hour before it will be read in court.

Wisconsin jury instructions encourage the “free and full exchange of opinions and information” during deliberations.

Once in the jury room, jurors appoint a “foreperson” who will communicate with the court and read the verdict.

“You should fully and frankly give your views and listen carefully to the comments of your fellow jurors,” the state’s handbook says.

“The deliberations should consider all evidence received in court and the instructions given to you by the judge,” according to the state. “You are not to rely upon any private sources of information, although it is assumed that you will use your own experiences, knowledge, and common sense in reaching your conclusions. Jury deliberation is not the place for emotions, prejudice, or sympathy, but rather for the calm review of the facts and the applicable law.”

Only after the judge has discharged jurors are they allowed to discuss the case with others, and there is no obligation to reveal their vote or discussions about the case with other jurors.

Jurors are also under no obligation to discuss cases “that have received extensive public attention” with members of the media.

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