Jury selection began Monday in the high-profile Kyle Rittenhouse trial. Rittenhouse is accused of shooting three protesters during unrest more than a year ago in Kenosha. Two of those men died in the shootings.
A Racine defense attorney says the initial jury pool of 150 people is large, but he expects that group to be narrowed down quickly due to the anticipated length of this trial along with the exposure the case has garnered.
Rittenhouse’s fate will soon be up to twelve jurors who live in Kenosha County. Their names will remain anonymous, and if you watch coverage of the trial, you won’t be able to see their faces either.
“Is there anyone who hasn't read or heard about this case?” Kenosha County Judge Bruce Schroeder asked prospective jurors on Monday.
It is a case that has received national attention and one that will be watched closely near and far.
"This case has become very political,” Judge Schroeder added. “Today you can go out and read about the case written by people who know nothing."
Criminal defense attorney Patrick Cafferty has been practicing law in Racine for nearly 30 years. He says prospective jurors will answer questions from the judge, prosecution, and defense to gather their opinions on the case to determine whether they can be impartial.
“Because there has been so much exposure, it's really going to be difficult to persuade people one way or the other to leave their original positions,” Cafferty said.
Cafferty says because this case has become so politicized, lawyers on both sides will likely focus on the prospective jurors’ political beliefs.
"The state is likely to want people who are democratic-leaning, urbanites, maybe women and I say that all based on what people have expressed as their views as this has played out in the media,” Cafferty said. “The defense is likely to be focused on people who vote republican, people who are from more rural areas. Those folks tend to be more pro-Second Amendment and men who have expressed favor about their perception that Kyle was acting in self-defense when he did what he did."
A pool of 150 prospective jurors was summoned to Kenosha County court Monday for the beginning of jury selection. Cafferty says the judge is responsible for narrowing that group down to 34 people.
“Once they get it down to 34, each side will get seven strikes and they'll bring it down to 20 which will be the group that will actually hear the case,” he explained.
Once the jury pool is down to 20, the trial will begin. Cafferty says eight of those jurors will not find out they are alternates until all of the evidence has been presented.
"I think this judge literally has this old-school bingo looking device and he'll put the numbers into the device, his clerk will spin it and she'll start to pick out numbers randomly, and she'll say ‘juror number 127, you're excused, juror number 112, you're excused,’ and they'll be left with twelve,” Cafferty explained.
Judge Schroeder says the odds are slim to none that he would have the jury sequestered for the trial, meaning they would have to stay away from their homes and not have access to media coverage. Judge Schroeder says jurors must decide the case solely on what they hear in the courtroom.