NewsKyle Rittenhouse Trial


In-Depth: Legal experts reveal what takes place in jury room during deliberations

kyle rittenhouse
Posted at 11:12 AM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 12:12:55-05

The Rittenhouse trial is now in the hands of the jury. Deliberations are set to begin Tuesday morning after the defense and prosecution gave their closing statements on Monday.

Deliberations take place in a private room inside the courthouse. Ultimately, the jury is responsible for returning a unanimous verdict, but legal experts say there’s no telling how long it will take to get there.

After listening to nearly two weeks of testimony, a dozen jurors from Kenosha County will now decide Kyle Rittenhouse’s fate. The teen is accused of killing two protesters and injuring another during unrest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse took the witness stand last week to make his self-defense claim.

Christina Marinakis says once the jury enters deliberations, they often start with an initial vote to see where everyone stands.

"That's very common where they'll say, 'let's get a temperature idea of where everybody is before we start discussing the case because we may all agree and there's no need to discuss things very thoroughly,’” Marinakis explained. “But I find that even when jurors agree they will often say, ‘well, we have a duty to go back and examine all the evidence, so let’s just be really sure that this is how we feel.’”

Marinakis has been a jury consultant for more than a decade. She assisted the prosecution with jury selection in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial. The former Minneapolis police officer was found guilty of killing George Floyd while on duty.

"One of the jurors in that case said they all agreed as soon as they got in the room on a guilty verdict, but they still took the time to go through and look at the evidence and to be sure that that was the right result,” Marinakis said.

One of the first items on the agenda for the jury is selecting a foreperson. That juror is considered the jury’s spokesperson and is responsible for making sure every juror gets to participate and the discussions remain orderly.

Jury foreperson's duties

During deliberations, the jury is assigned to discuss the evidence to review the facts of the case and how it pertains to the law.

"The idea is is that they will discuss the evidence, share their opinions with one another, spend time discussing whether they think the prosecution has met their burden of proof, but they don't really get a blueprint for how to go about doing that other than to just discuss the evidence and listen to one another and keep an open mind,” said John Gross.

Gross is a UW-Madison Law School professor who has more than twenty years of experience serving as a criminal defense attorney. Gross expects jurors will spend a great deal of time sifting through video evidence.

"The jury is going to be able to look at that video as much as they would like in their jury room and figure out what they think you can see and hear and then conclude from all of that video evidence,” he said.

Given the complexities of this case, Gross says there’s no telling whether the jury will reach a verdict in hours, days or even weeks. There’s also the possibility they don’t agree on one or more of the five counts.

"That's a mistrial and then the prosecution has the option of retrying the defendant on those specific charges that the jury could not reach an agreement,” he said.

Considering Rittenhouse faces several counts and various lesser charges, Gross says it’s possible the jury could agree to convict on some counts and acquit on others.

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