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A juror in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial was dismissed for joking about Jacob Blake

Kyle Rittenhouse waits for his legal team at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Thursday.
Sean Krajacic
The Kenosha News via AP
Kyle Rittenhouse waits for his legal team at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Thursday.

A juror in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse has been dismissed by the judge for making a joke about Jacob Blake, the Black man whose shooting by police sparked the protests in Kenosha, Wis., where Rittenhouse shot and killed two protesters.

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.' "

Blake, who was 29 years old at the time, was shot seven times in the back by Rusten Sheskey, a white Kenosha police officer, outside an apartment building on Aug. 23, 2020. Police had been called to the building by a woman who had previously filed a sexual assault complaint against Blake. Blake was left paralyzed from the waist down. Both police and Blake acknowledge he was holding a knife, though Blake says he was moving to place it in his car after it fell from his pants.

Binger asked the judge to dismiss the juror, saying the joke suggested racial bias.

Rittenhouse's defense lawyers initially opposed the dismissal, but they ultimately declined to object after the juror refused to repeat the joke, saying that his unwillingness to do so "could be taken in a worse light."

"Regardless whether the issue is as grave as [Binger] presented it in terms of inner feelings, it's clear that the appearance of bias is present, and it would seriously undermine the outcome of the case," said Schroeder as he dismissed the juror. "The public needs to be confident that this is a fair trial."

The jury, assembled Monday in a single day of jury selection, now consists of 11 women and eight men. Twelve will ultimately serve on the jury panel, while the other seven are considered to be alternates. All but one are white, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

Testimony continues Thursday and Friday as the prosecution makes its case. The trial is expected to last at least one more week.

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Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.