Kenosha County, WI – The Kenosha County jury deliberating in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse asked to review several videos on Wednesday afternoon, prompting a courtroom battle over drone footage the defense has accused the state of withholding and pending motion for a mistrial.
Defense attorneys filed a motion for a mistrial with prejudice on Monday, citing video that the prosecution showed to the jury during its closing arguments although it had never been provided in the same format to Rittenhouse’s side, CNN reported.
A mistrial “with prejudice” would prevent the state from trying Rittenhouse again on the same charges.
“What that means is the video provided to the defense was not as clear as the video kept by the state,” the motion read, according to CNN.
Rittenhouse’s attorneys claimed in the motion that the version they received “was only 3.6 megabytes, while the state had a higher resolution version that was 11.2 megabytes.”
Attorneys for the 18-year-old Rittenhouse also told the judge that contrary to what the state had claimed about the software they used being the industry standard for blowing up pictures for court, despite the fact it added pixels to the image, was not true.
The AMP software manual actually instructed users that blowups of photos should only be used for investigatory purposes and not submitted as evidence, according to the lawyers.
Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder went on a courtroom rant about how the media was misreporting what was actually happening in the case on Nov. 16 and referenced the pending motion for a mistrial that pundits have said he should have ruled on before the jury began deliberations.
“I haven’t even had a chance to read the motion to dismiss,” Schroeder said. “I just got it yesterday. And I really think before I rule on a motion, I should let the state respond. So why anyone would think, it is odd for the judge to sit on a motion to dismiss, I have no idea.”
“And the recommended course, I think for judges at least that is what I was educated to believe, was that motions to dismiss should be kept under advisement, unless they’re crystal clear and they have had a chance for both parties to respond. Which we didn’t have in the heat of the discussion on the day the original oral motion was made,” the judge continued.
“So I’m somewhat astounded. It’s just a shame irresponsible statements are being made,” Schroeder lamented.
The jury also asked the judge whether they would be able to review footage in evidence on their own or had to do it in open court.
Schroeder ruled the jury would view the video in the courtroom, as is dictated by court rules, but allowed that he would completely clear the courtroom while the jury was watching the videos, The Washington Post reported.
He entered the video referenced in the defense motion into evidence, but he also said he planned to call in expert testimony to “get somebody to explain this” in reference to the multiple versions of the same video, CNN reported.
The judge blasted historical precedent that said the video could only be shown to the jury once.
“I think… many of them are educated to make these decisions, and that’s where the founders of these people put power and not us,” Schroeder said. “I think it’s insulting to the jury that they have restrictions of these viewings.”
The judge said it was fine “if they want to watch it a hundred times,” The Washington Post reported.
Schroeder also took a moment to defend his decision to have Rittenhouse draw the numbers of the alternate jurors who were excluded from the final panel before deliberations began on Nov. 15, CNN reported.
He explained that he has done it the same way since a case in Racine he presided over 20 years ago, when the court clerk pulled the number and the only black juror was removed from a jury panel on a case with black defendant.
“Ever since that case, I’ve had an almost universal policy of having the defendant do the things, and that’s had nothing to do with anybody’s race or anything like that, and I never had a complaint about it before,” the judge explained.
“I think people feel better when they have control,” Schroeder said.
The jury has not yet asked to review the exact video that is referenced in the mistrial motion.
Attorneys for Rittenhouse then asked for a mistrial without prejudice, and said their client understood that meant the state could recharge him for the same crimes.
The defense said the mistrial was necessary so “we can all have the same information and the same quality of videos” for the trial when making decisions about how to present their defense.
Schroeder said he wouldn’t rule on the mistrial motion until the jury asked to see that specific video.
Interestingly, prosecutors were quick to point out to the judge that the defense said they wanted a mistrial regardless of whether the jury asked to review the drone video, in a manner that implied the state would like a second opportunity to convince a jury that Rittenhouse is guilty.