KENOSHA, Wis. — Kyle Rittenhouse played a direct role Tuesday in choosing, albeit randomly, the final 12 jurors who are deciding his innocence or guilt in the murder trial over his killing two protesters and wounding a third last summer.
At the direction of Circuit Judge Bruce Schroder, Rittenhouse’s attorney placed slips of paper into a raffle drum with the numbers of each of the 18 jurors on it who sat through the two-week trial. The drum had been sitting on a window ledge throughout the trial but was placed in front of Rittenhouse at the defense table Tuesday.
With the jury watching, Rittenhouse then selected six pieces of paper from the drum, each bearing a number that corresponded to a juror. A court official then read aloud the numbers of the jurors being dismissed: 11, 58, 14, 45, 9 and 52. The names of the jurors have not been made public.
The dismissed jurors won’t be among the final 12 deliberating the case. But they were required to remain in the courthouse, at the request of the defense, until the jury returned with a verdict.
Portage County Assistant District Attorney Robert Jambois was a prosecutor in Kenosha in 2008 when he tried Mark Jensen for homicide in front of Schroeder. Jensen was accused of poisoning and smothering his wife in one of the highest-profile cases to land in Schroeder’s courtroom before Rittenhouse.
Jambois said alternates were designated by picking numbers from a tumbler but that the clerk of courts pulled the numbers from it, not Jensen.
“I’ve never heard of a defendant pulling the names,” Jambois said. “That’s done by a member of the court.”
Julius Kim, a former Milwaukee County assistant district attorney, said he’s never seen a judge allow a defendant to draw the numbers to determine who the final members of a jury will be.
“It’s not unusual to select alternates by lot,” Kim said. ”(But) I’ve never seen a judge allow a defendant to draw those names. That might be a little unconventional but there’s nothing wrong with it that I could really see.”
Milwaukee-based defense attorney Tom Grieve also said he’s never seen a defendant do that, “but it’s a shoulder shrug for me.”
“I don’t really care,” Grieve said. “The point is they have some system to arrive at 12 jurors. It’s certainly unusual but I don’t see anything wrong with it.”
There’s no prohibition on having the defendant draw the numbers of alternate jurors, but the general practice is to have the clerk of courts do it, said Ion Meyn, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School.
“This is not really a well-litigated area,” Meyn said.
If it is common practice for that judge, prosecutors may decide it’s not worth objecting to, Meyn said.