Defense files for mistrial over Kenosha shooting video from drone played during Antioch teen's trial
KENOSHA, Wis. (WLS) -- The jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial deliberated for a third day and ended Thursday without a verdict.
Rittenhouse, 18, faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge for using an AR-style semi-automatic rifle to kill two men and wound a third during a night of protests against racial injustice in Kenosha in the summer of 2020. The former police youth cadet is white, as were those he shot.
However, there's no indication of what's keeping jurors from reaching a verdict. The only insight into what the jury is weighing has come in the form of five written notes.
Judge Bruce Schroeder read one note that was passed to him on Wednesday that said: "Do we view videos in private or in the courtroom?"
They also asked to see a high-resolution clip of drone video that re-ignited a debate over whether jurors should be able to consider the clip.
The defense's second motion for a mistrial focused on that video, which the state said proves Rittenhouse provoked the confrontation with Joseph Rosenbaum, the first person he shot and killed.
The defense said it never saw the specific clearer clip until last Friday, after evidence was closed.
"Your job is fairness and being a truth seeker," said defense attorney Corey Chirafisi. "It's not debatable that it's not fair what happened."
The high-resolution drone clip is the same one that brought Judge Schroeder down from the bench to view up close and had Rittenhouse hunched over a chair, squinting at the screen during a courtroom conference without jurors before closing arguments.
Judge Schroeder apprehensively agreed to allow jurors to review it.
"I was queasy about this from the beginning and I'm only queasier about it now," he said.
"What matters is the exhibit, and that exhibit was played - it was not objected to," said James Kraus, Kenosha County assistant district attorney. "The authenticity was stipulated to, and the defense, I understand they didn't realize it until Friday, watched this exhibit."
The argument resurfaced during deliberations when jurors asked to review the high-resolution footage that the defense takes issue with.
The judge cleared the courtroom, allowing jurors to re-watch the drone footage, with another warning for the state.
"I persistently warned the state there's a day of reckoning for these things...with respect for this," Judge Schroeder said.
The judge has not ruled on the defense's motion for a mistrial.
In an effort to protect their privacy and reach a consensus free from the outside world, jurors are being so closely guarded that Judge Schroeder convened court Thursday to admonish a member of the media.
Judge Schroeder said he had banned anyone from the cable news network MSNBC from entering the courthouse. The move was in response to a freelance producer who was stopped by police for running a red light Wednesday night while he was following a bus carrying the jurors as they left the courthouse for the day.
"This is a very serious matter and I don't know what the ultimate truth of it is," Schroeder said. "But absolutely it would go without much thinking that someone who is following the jury bus, that is a very...extremely serious matter."
NBC News released a statement that said: "Last night, a freelancer received a traffic citation. While the traffic violation took place near the jury van, the freelancer never contacted or intended to contact the jurors during deliberations, and never photographed or intended to photograph them. We regret the incident and will fully cooperate with the authorities on any investigation."
A verdict will fall on a bitterly divided crowd huddled outside the courthouse. Anthony Huber's great aunt was among those waiting Thursday.
"It's exhausting," Susan Hughes said. "Mentally, physically, certainly."
Hughes is waiting to find out if Kyle Rittenhouse will be convicted of the most serious charge of killing her nephew, Anthony, intentionally.
"He's looked me in the eyes several times," she said.
Rittenhouse killed Huber with a single gunshot to the chest when he allegedly swung his skateboard at the teenager as he ran, just seconds after shooting and killing Rosenbaum, which the Antioch teen has repeatedly claimed he had to do to save himself.
"I did not hear remorse from him. I did not hear I'm sorry that I killed these people," Hughes said.
Huber's girlfriend has spent several days in the courtroom.
"I want people to know Anthony was a real-life human being, he was an amazing human being," said Hannah Gittings.
Jurors are now still trying to decide if they believe Kyle Rittenhouse killed Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum in self-defense and if the armed teenager's fear of death was reasonable.
"I don't know the makeup of the jury," Hughes said. "I know the makeup of this town and it's split pretty 50/50. So if they come to a conclusion, I think it will be some kind of compromise, a lesser charge."
The compromise could be what is weighing on the jurors comprised of seven women and five men, who've now spent a third day behind closed doors.
"It's just impossible to figure out exactly what they're hung up on or if they're hung up on anything. This could be anything from just responsibly wanting to go through every bit of evidence to be absolutely certain they have a right, to there's a single holdout who everybody else is trying to convince to go their way and so they're working their way all through the evidence," said ABC7 Legal Analysis Gil Soffer.
Outside the courthouse, there were some tense moments Wednesday.
A man armed with a rifle was confronted by a team of sheriff's deputies coming from inside the courthouse.
They surrounded him, escorted him to their vehicles and asked him to leave.
"If you want to be here, you're going to have to put the rifle away," one said, adding he was too close to a school to be carrying the weapon.
Thursday morning was mostly quiet, with only a few protesters outside the courthouse.
At the end of the day Thursday, jurors were sent home with the only piece of the case they've been approved to review outside the courthouse -- 36 pages of jury instructions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.