The incident occurred when a male juror made a joke about the shooting while being escorted to his car, Judge Bruce Schroeder said.
“I’m going to summarize what I remember, what I was told,” Schroeder said. “He was telling a joke … he told the officer … he made a reference about telling a joke about ‘Why did it take seven shots to shoot Jacob Blake,’ something to that effect.”
Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger took particular issue with the incident.
“The joke is in bad taste, there are a plethora of bad jokes out there with everything to do with all this, this is one of them. But I think the rest of this joke, as it were, suggests some sort of racial bias which I think comes into play,” he said.
The judge called the juror into court for questioning. The juror affirmed he told the joke but declined to repeat it. The juror, a middle-aged man, looked ill-at-ease, fumbling to hold a portable microphone and speaking through a multi-colored face mask, according to a pool reporter in court.
“My feelings is, it was nothing to do with the case. It was nothing to do with Kyle and his charges,” the juror told the judge.
Both the defense and the prosecution agreed to dismiss the juror, and the judge admonished him while doing so.
“It is clear that the appearance to bias is present and it would seriously undermine the outcome of the case,” Schroeder said.
The juror’s dismissal leaves the panel with 19 jurors, made up of 11 women and eight men. That number will be narrowed to 12 once deliberations begin, according to the judge. The jury was selected in a single day without the use of a preliminary questionnaire.
The dismissal came amid the first week of testimony in Rittenhouse’s homicide trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, killed two men and wounded another during the volatile unrest after police shot Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, seven times on August 23, 2020. Blake was left paralyzed.
Blake’s uncle said Thursday his family is “disturbed and disgusted” by reports of the dismissed juror’s joke.
“The juror’s mentality shows his bias and callousness and he should be nowhere near the jury box in this case,” Justin Blake told CNN. “It shows the depravity and racism and the lowness of a member of a jury that was selected in one day.”
Rittenhouse, now 18, has pleaded not guilty to seven charges, including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and first-degree attempted intentional homicide. His attorney says he acted in self-defense.
Rittenhouse fired an AR-15-style weapon eight times in all during the unrest: four shots at Joseph Rosenbaum, who was unarmed; two shots at an unarmed unknown individual who kicked Rittenhouse; one fatal shot at Anthony Huber, who hit Rittenhouse with a skateboard; and one shot at Gaige Grosskreutz, who was holding a gun, according to prosecutors.
Witness says he did not see a weapon in Rosenbaum’s hand
Ryan Balch, a military veteran who was with Rittenhouse on the night of the fatal shootings in Kenosha, said during testimony that he did not see a weapon in Rosenbaum’s hand.
Balch was armed with an AR-15 and a handgun while wearing body armor. He spent much of the evening close to Rittenhouse, describing Rittenhouse as “a young and impressionable kid” who “seemed under-equipped” and “under-experienced.” He also said Rittenhouse told him that he was a 19-year-old certified EMT.
Balch described Rosenbaum as “hyper-aggressive and acting out in a violent manner” when questioned by Binger. He also said he did not see Rosenbaum cause any physical injury to anyone on the night of the shootings.
Balch also described an encounter he had with Rosenbaum, saying Rosenbaum “threatened him and the defendant (Rittenhouse).”
“I turned and had an exchange with one of the protestors, and I kind of explained to that protester, ‘Hey, you know, I get it, get what you are trying to do but like not this,’ and when I turned around, Rosenbaum was right there in front of my face, yelling and screaming.
“And I said, ‘Dude, back up, chill. I don’t know what your problem is?’ He goes, ‘You know, If I catch any of you guys alone tonight, I’m gonna f***ing kill you,’” Balch said, adding that Rittenhouse was close enough to hear what was said.
Balch said Rosenbaum neither reached for any weapons nor did he touch him.
“He had a bag full of what looked to be chemicals to me,” Balch said. “I made the assumption at the time and told the FBI the same thing that I thought it was for making Molotov cocktails.”
The bag Balch saw with Rosenbaum was the same bag laying on the ground after Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum, Balch testified.
Journalist who saw shooting says he felt in danger
Richie McGinniss, a journalist who was just feet from Rittenhouse when the teenager fatally shot Rosenbaum, testified Thursday that he felt he was in danger during the shooting.
“I became extremely worried, because I was behind Rosenbaum, that I was gonna be caught in the – whatever was about to happen,” he said.
“Given where I was, certainly I was in danger,” he added.
The testimony is key to one of the charges against Rittenhouse – a felony count of first-degree recklessly endangering safety.
McGinniss, the chief video director for the news website The Daily Caller, testified that he traveled to Kenosha to film parts of the unrest that he felt were not being covered in other media. He said he felt the presence of an armed group of men made the scene more dangerous.
“Anytime that there are guns, that elevates the level of danger in my mind,” he said.
That night, he trailed behind Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum in the seconds before the shooting. He said his eyes “were fixated on the barrel of the weapon because I didn’t want to end up on the receiving end of that.”
McGinniss said Rosenbaum appeared to lunge at Rittenhouse’s weapon at the same time Rittenhouse shot him.
“It was as if, you know, if you were to lunge at somebody, if anybody were to lunge, they would probably stop themselves, you know, from falling face down on the ground, but the shots were fired in the exact instance that his momentum was going forward and that continued until Mr. Rosenbaum landed on the ground,” McGinniss said.
After the shooting, McGinniss tried to render aid to Rosenbaum, who was lying lifeless on the ground. McGinniss and several other people carried Rosenbaum across the street to a car and then rode in the trunk to a nearby hospital.
“We drove down a small ramp and at that point I was alone in the back with Mr. Rosenbaum and I was just telling him that we’re going to have a beer together afterwards and it was all going to be OK,” McGinniss said.
McGinniss at times became emotional during his testimony, wiping his face and sniffling as he turned to watch video of the shooting.
“Is it hard for you to see that?” prosecutor Binger asked him.
“I certainly don’t like to watch it,” McGinniss replied.
McGinniss said he told police Rittenhouse was “trying to evade” individuals, including Rosenbaum, prior to the fatal shooting. Rittenhouse did not seem menacing aside from the fact he had a weapon, McGinniss said.
Videos show final moments
On Wednesday and Thursday, prosecutors played about a dozen videos that, taken together, showed what happened before, during and after Rittenhouse killed two men and wounded another in Kenosha.
In particular, new FBI infrared aerial surveillance video provided a unique angle into the final moments before the teenager fatally shot Rosenbaum. The infrared video, grainy and shot from 8,500 feet overhead, shows Rittenhouse hustling along a sidewalk and passing Rosenbaum, who is positioned next to a cluster of parked cars.
The video shows the two stop and interact, and Rosenbaum, who was unarmed, then begins to run toward Rittenhouse, who is armed with a rifle. Rittenhouse, then 17, runs away from Rosenbaum before the teenager ultimately turns and shoots him four times, the video shows.
The new FBI aerial video was shown in court during testimony from Kenosha Police Det. Martin Howard, the lead investigator on the case.
Richards, Rittenhouse’s attorney, alleged that Rosenbaum was in the parking lot setting a Duramax on fire.
Rittenhouse slows down in the video, and there appears to be some kind of exchange, but there is no audio of the moment.
That initial shot was fired by Joshua Ziminski, Howard testified. Afterward, Rittenhouse fired four times at Rosenbaum. There were another three shots afterward, the videos show, but Howard said investigators still do not know who fired those.
Ziminski, 36, has separately been charged with disorderly conduct using a dangerous weapon, arson and obstructing an officer, and he has pleaded not guilty, court records show. A criminal complaint says he admitted to firing a “warning shot” in the air that night.
Other videos that night from a variety of perspectives show what happened next. Rittenhouse ran from the shooting scene and people began to chase after him, yelling that he had shot someone. Rittenhouse then fell to the ground, and three people confronted him; Rittenhouse fatally shot Huber and shot Grosskreutz in the arm, the videos show.
CNN’s Ashley Killough, Brad Parks, Sara Sidner and Amir Vera contributed to this report.