KENOSHA, Wis. — A juror was dismissed from the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial Thursday morning for making a tasteless remark about the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Blake, who is Black, was shot in the back several times by a white police officer in August 2020, sparking protests and often-violent unrest in Kenosha. Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Antioch, Illinois, traveled across state lines to volunteer as an armed guard amid the chaos and ended up shooting three men, killing two of them.
Blake, then 29, was paralyzed as a result of the police shooting. The officer who shot him was not charged with any wrongdoing and has returned to the police force.
According to prosecutors, the so-called joke was “why did the Kenosha police shoot Jacob Blake seven times?” It’s unclear if the man gave the punchline or was stopped before he finished, but Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger said he understood the answer to be “because they ran out of bullets.”
The juror, an older white man, acknowledged he told a joke about Blake, but he declined to repeat it. In defending himself, he referred to Rittenhouse by his first name.
“My feeling is it has nothing to do with the case,” the man said. “It has nothing to do with Kyle and his seven charges.”
Blake’s uncle, Justin, has been a constant presence outside the courthouse during the trial, leading small demonstrations and demanding justice for the three men Rittenhouse shot. Justin Blake told the Chicago Tribune the juror’s comment casts doubts about the entire process of selecting the predominately white jury.
“It gives you an insight to what kind of people we’re dealing with and how racist they are and the thoughts that they have in their mind. ... It shows that this process of picking a jury in one day is flawed,” Justin Blake said.
The defense initially opposed removing the juror, but did not fight his dismissal once the man declined to repeat the question. Prosecutors called the joke “tasteless” and said it showed a racial bias.
Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder, who repeatedly has said he hopes the proceedings will make Kenosha proud, agreed with prosecutors.
“I’ve talked quite a bit about public confidence in the outcome of the trial,” Schroeder said. “It is clear that the appearance of bias is present, and it would seriously undermine the outcome of the case.”
The jury now consists of eight men and 11 women, 12 of whom will be charged with reaching a verdict.