Looks like someone — or a group of someones — may not have much confidence in Kenosha prosecutors. In court this morning, Julio Rosas reports that the judge revealed surveillance on jurors as they boarded buses for the courtroom. The video got deleted by officers on scene, but the episode raises questions about potential juror intimidation:
Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder revealed at the start of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial that someone had filmed the jury at their bus pickup on Tuesday morning. He assured the jurors the video was deleted and more steps will be taken to protect them.
“At pickup, there was someone there and video recording the jury, which officers approached the person and required [them]…to delete the video and return the phone to him. I’ve instructed that if it happens again, they are to take the phone and bring it here,” Schroeder said.
“Something like that should not have occurred, I’m frankly, quite surprised it did,” he added.
At least one person openly bragged about trying to publicly identify jurors in the trial. People in the courtroom have taken their pictures surreptitiously, Cortez Rice claimed in a video over the weekend, with the clear implication that they would be doxxed if they failed to deliver “justice” on Rice’s terms:
George Floyd’s nephew, Cortez Rice, makes a claim that he knows people taking photos of jurors during the Kyle Rittenhouse trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin. His goal is to dox jurors if they do not convict. pic.twitter.com/uwLuV2ftfV
— John Curtis (@Johnmcurtis) November 7, 2021
Normally, this might prompt a mistrial motion from the defense, which clearly is the target for this tactic. Given how the prosecution’s case has gone, however, Rittenhouse’s attorneys might want to wait on such a motion until after making one for a directed verdict of acquittal first. A mistrial would almost certainly force another trial, perhaps in a different venue, even while most of us are now wondering why this case was brought at all.
Of course, if a defense motion to dismiss or get a directed verdict of acquittal fails, they could move for a mistrial at that point.
Some people asked Julio whether the person had been arrested:
I don't know. Schroeder didn't say anything about that.
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) November 9, 2021
If the bus pickup was in public view, there wouldn’t have been any reason to arrest the videographer. This comes up when people film police in public as well; people have a right to record events in a public square, although not for the purpose of committing a crime themselves. In this case, police seem to have gone as far as they could by demanding that the video be deleted and getting the name of the person taking the video. It’s unclear whether police would have legal standing to confiscate the camera/phone as Judge Schroeder ordered if it happens again, although one can imagine that the officers on scene will likely follow Schroeder’s instruction and let the court deal with the legal niceties.
Prosecutors tried to regain their momentum today by focusing on the forensics and the autopsy results:
At one point, he appeared to look over at jurors as they viewed the autopsy photos. Jurors seemed to take extensive notes with the pathologist testifying and explaining the fatal wounds. Some jurors have found it difficult to look at these too. #KyleRittenhouse
— Omar Jimenez (@OmarJimenez) November 9, 2021
Gunshot wounds can be horribly disfiguring, and there’s no doubt that this will have an emotional impact. However, Rittenhouse and his defense team aren’t arguing that he didn’t shoot the three men, but that he did so in defense of his own life. Will jurors put aside those images to render an impartial verdict on that basis? That’s no easy task, but they may not have to do so if Judge Schroeder gives consideration to the fact that the prosecution and its witnesses have established the elements of self-defense even before Rittenhouse’s attorneys begin their case. And one has to wonder whether these attempts at jury intimidation might backfire when it comes to that decision.
In the meantime, perhaps law enforcement and prosecutors in Kenosha should take a hard look at what appears to be a coordinated effort at jury intimidation. That is, if they haven’t already been intimidated themselves.