Jurors returned to the courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Friday for another day of deliberations, which signals the case could result in a hung jury with the potential that Judge Bruce Schroeder might declare a mistrial.
In a surprising move on Thursday, Schroeder allowed jurors to take home with them instructions that he agreed were “very confusing,” CNN’s Omar Jimenez reported.
All jurors will be able to take the jury instructions home but none of their notes. As part of granting this wish, the judge said he's been watching some TV and that some of the greatest legal minds in the country "agree with us that the instructions are very confusing."
— Omar Jimenez (@OmarJimenez) November 18, 2021
But the fact that jurors were first given instructions on Monday could be a sign that they are at an impasse on some or all charges Rittenhouse faces.
WISN-TV quoted defense attorney Mark Richards as saying Thursday of the jury: “I thought the jury was 6-6 split.”
If indeed there is a split, be it 6-6 or 11-1, Schroeder probably would ask the jurors to continue deliberating until they could reach a consensus. If they remained unable to agree on an outcome, then a mistrial would be the most likely outcome.
The Rittenhouse defense team has filed motions for a mistrial both with and without prejudice.
Schroeder has not yet ruled on either motion. If he were to declare a mistrial with prejudice, the state would lose its ability to retry the case. If a mistrial without prejudice is declared, either through a hung jury or through the defense’s motion, the case almost certainly would be tried again.
Rittenhouse faces homicide and other charges for shooting three men, killing two of them, during a riot in Kenosha last year following the police shooting two days earlier of Jacob Blake, a black man who was armed with a knife.
Rittenhouse, then 17, was in the city on Aug. 25, 2020, to put out fires, render first aid and protect private business, he has said. Just before midnight, he encountered Joseph Rosenbaum, who video shows rushed the teen. Rittenhouse fired his rifle, killing Rosenbaum.
Others at the scene then chased Rittenhouse, who was knocked down and kicked in the head. He opened fire on two men who approached him, Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz. Huber, who was armed with a skateboard, died. Grosskreutz, who was armed with a handgun, was shot in the arm.
Rittenhouse and his defense team have maintained that had he not fired at each of the three men and the man who kicked him, he would be the one who would have been left dead.
While the defense’s case that the shootings were in self-defense has been persuasive, there has been immense pressure from outside the court for the teen to be convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
There is also a strong argument to be made that Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger has at times behaved maliciously. The prosecution has skirted around basic procedure numerous times, to the ire of Schroeder — who has kept motions for a mistrial close to the vest.
Jurors are deciding how to handle charges of first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety.
Rittenhouse faces the five charges after Schroeder tossed out a charge for a curfew violation and one for a weapons violation.
The 18-year-old testified last week in the trial, which has captivated the country for three weeks.