One of jurors chosen for the Kyle Rittenhouse case was dismissed Thursday morning after telling a racist joke to a court police officer:
The juror, a retired white man, made the joke to a court police officer as the officer escorted him to his car on Wednesday afternoon. The officer reported the joke to Judge Bruce Schroeder.
Called before the judge and lawyers on Thursday morning, the juror confirmed that he made the joke but declined to repeat it.
"It was my understanding it was something along the lines of, 'Why did the Kenosha police shoot Jacob Blake seven times?'" said prosecutor Thomas Binger. "It's my understanding that the rest of the joke is: 'Because they ran out of bullets.' "
Jacob Blake is a Black man who was shot multiple times in the back by a white police officer, which led to the Kenosha protests where Rittenhouse shot three people, killing two.
To make matters worse, the jokester tried to defend himself by claiming that the so-called joke had nothing to do with the current trial, showing how utterly clueless the juror was not only to what the trial was about but to his own inherent racism.
The incident further throws doubt on how fair this trial will be to the victims. It also demonstrates why justice reform is needed across the country:
The moment captured the bias — sometimes explicit, but often implicit or unconscious — that experts say is especially damaging in criminal proceedings. Jurors who may not see their biases as problematic or even realize they exist are asked to weigh witness testimony and ultimately decide a defendant's fate. And while the juror in Kenosha, Wisconsin, may have vocalized his beliefs, sharing the joke while being escorted to his car after jury duty, in most cases these biases are difficult or impossible to detect.
"It's one of the most significant problems facing the criminal justice system in both state and federal courts," said Mark Bennett, a retired federal and state judge who directs the Institute for Justice Reform & Innovation at Drake University Law School in Iowa.
The fact that the jury was selected in just one day seemed odd, given how high profile the case is and how many jurors expressed fear about being picked for the jury panel. The experts agreed that it is rather unusual and question how fair the jury could be, adding that one day is simply not enough time to pick an unbiased panel, especially for one such as this one.