Twenty people have been selected to serve as jurors in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who was 17 when he shot three men, two fatally, during protests and unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year.
Opening statements are expected to begin Tuesday.
Rittenhouse now 18, is charged with reckless homicide, intentional homicide and attempted intentional homicide after he fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz during an Aug. 25, 2020, protest that followed the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white police officer.
Lawyers for Rittenhouse have said that the teen acted in self-defense. He faces the possibility of life behind bars if convicted.
On Monday, Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce E. Schroeder presided over jury selection and warned potential jurors that notions of the case had been seized for political gain and twisted by news outlets.
He said chosen jurors would be exposed to “the real evidence in this case” and must decide on only that. “This is not a political trial,” Schroeder said.
Some conservatives and advocates of gun rights have rallied to Rittenhouse’s side, raising $2 million for bond, contributing to defense costs and describing him as a Second Amendment hero who did the right thing when confronted by alleged lawlessness.
Jurors were asked if they’d be able to be fair and impartial. A number had connections to businesses impacted by the demonstrations, knew protesters or had connections or support for police.
The day started with 150 potential jurors and ended with 11 women and nine men who will serve.
One person of color was selected, a man in his late 20s who told the court that he had friends with views on both sides of the matter and that a police officer from a nearby Wisconsin city was once a roommate.
Researchers have found that the racial composition of a jury can have an impact on the outcome.
The National Bureau of Economic Research concluded in a non-peer-reviewed working paper from 2010, “The presence of even one or two Blacks in the jury pool results in significantly higher conviction rates for white defendants and lower conviction rates for Black defendants.”
Many of those who were excused had said they had strong opinions about the case.
Schroeder said there would be no alternates but that if more than 12 jurors remained at the end of the trial — some would likely be dismissed as a result of illness or family emergencies, he said — he’ll help reduce the number to a dozen for deliberations.
He told jurors that he expected the trial to last about two weeks.
Rittenhouse went to Kenosha from the neighboring city of Antioch, Illinois, armed with an AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle originally developed for military use, with the intention of linking up with a militia-style group of armed men and protecting businesses from arsonists and looters, his lawyers have said.
They said he opened fire when confronted and grabbed.
Rosenbaum was seen on video running toward Rittenhouse before being shot. Huber held up a skateboard in his clash with Rittenhouse, video shows. Grosskreutz was allegedly armed with a handgun.
Schroeder reiterated last week that the men could not be described by prosecutors as victims, part of his longstanding policy that seeks to protect defendants until guilt or innocence is determined, but that they could be called rioters, looters or arsonists if the defense had sufficient evidence to do so.
Samira Puskar contributed.