The jury in Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial was set to begin its third day of deliberations on Thursday, despite his attorneys’ renewed plea for a mistrial due to the panel’s request to re-watch footage in the case.
The motion, which resulted from the defense team’s claim that prosecutors gave them an inferior copy of a potentially key film, was not immediately decided by Judge Bruce Schroeder. It was the defense’s second mistrial motion in a week.
Prosecutors presented the jury a piece of drone video during closing statements on Wednesday in an attempt to undercut Rittenhouse’s self-defense claim and depict him as the initiator of the slaughter in Kenosha in the summer of 2020. Prosecutors claim that before the incident, he was seen aiming his gun towards demonstrators on video.
The defense received a lesser compressed version of the video at first, according to Rittenhouse attorney Corey Chirafisi, and didn’t acquire the higher-quality bigger version utilized by the prosecution until the evidence phase of the case was complete.
He said that if the defense had had better film earlier, it would have approached things differently, and that it is now seeking for “a level, fair playing field.”
The mistrial motion would be issued “without prejudice,” Chirafisi added, implying that prosecutors might still retry Rittenhouse.
The defense filed a motion for a mistrial with prejudice last week, which means Rittenhouse will not be tried again. That motion was sparked by the defense’s contention that prosecutor Thomas Binger had asked Rittenhouse inappropriate questions during his cross-examination.
Rittenhouse, 18, is accused of murdering two individuals and wounded a third with an AR-style semi-automatic weapon during a chaotic night of protests after the police death of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white police officer. Rittenhouse, a former police youth cadet, claimed he traveled to Kenosha to protect property from riots when he was 17 years old.
Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, were slain, while Gaige Grosskreutz, now 28, was injured. Rittenhouse, like the others he shot, is white. The case has sparked heated debate in the United States over guns, racial injustice, vigilantism, and self-defense.
If convicted on the most serious crime leveled against him, Rittenhouse may face a life sentence in prison.
On the second day of their deliberations, jurors sought to re-watch footage, which sparked a debate over the film.
The jury’s sight of the drone video would be objectionable, according to defense counsel. Earlier in the trial, the same clip sparked a heated debate about whether a still image obtained from the video was distorted when it was magnified.
The footage, according to the prosecution, reveals Rittenhouse lied on the witness when he said he didn’t direct his gun toward demonstrators. The critical point in the film, however, is difficult to discern due to the drone’s distance and the small size of Rittenhouse’s figure in the picture.
A smaller file size or lower-resolution video file is fuzzier and grainier, especially when seen on a wider screen, according to Dennis Keeling, an adjunct professor in Columbia College Chicago’s cinema and television arts department. That’s why, after creating a copy, individuals working with video material double-check the file size, length, and other information to guarantee the new version is exactly what they needed, he noted.
Prosecutors told the judge on Wednesday that the jury viewed the highest-quality version of the file during the trial and that it was not the state’s responsibility that the file size shrank after the defense obtained it.
Prosecutor James Kraus stated, “We’re concentrating too strongly on a technological fault.”
The judge had “concerns” about admitting the footage during the trial, but stated that because it had previously been displayed in court, the jury may see it again during deliberations.
“It’s going to be unpleasant,” Schroeder said if it turns out the video should not have been brought into evidence.
If there is a guilty conviction, he said, the mistrial request will have to be handled.
If Rittenhouse is found not guilty, the case will be closed. If he is found guilty, however, a mistrial would effectively nullify the conviction.
Even if the court concludes it was an honest error or a technological glitch, a mistrial might be declared, according to Julius Kim, a Milwaukee-based defense attorney who has been following the case.
But, according to Ion Meyn, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, the defense will have to meet a high threshold and justify to the court why what transpired genuinely injured Rittenhouse in order to obtain a mistrial.
“You can’t simply claim, ‘The state provided me with a lower-quality film, thus I get a mistrial,'” Meyn explained. “That is, without a doubt, a losing argument.”
Earlier in the day, the judge slammed media coverage of the case and legal experts’ second-guessing, saying he would “think long and hard” about permitting future broadcast trials.
He took issue with press reports regarding his refusal to name the men Rittenhouse shot “victims” and his choice to let Rittenhouse draw the lots to decide which jurors would be alternates. The judge also expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that he had yet to rule on an earlier mistrial request.
Schroeder said he hadn’t read the motion yet since he had only recently gotten it and wanted to give the state an opportunity to comment.
“It’s simply a pity that reckless statements are being made,” the judge remarked of comments made by law school professors in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report.