KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse opened Monday with the challenging task of seating jurors who hadn't already made up their minds about the young aspiring police officer who shot two people to death and wounded a third during a night of anti-racism protests in Kenosha last year.
Rittenhouse was 17 when he made the short trip from his home in Illinois, just across the Wisconsin state line, during unrest that broke out in August 2020 after a white Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man.
Rittenhouse, now 18, faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree homicide, one of several charges against him. His lawyers have argued he fired in self-defense.
Judge Bruce Schroeder stressed repeatedly that jurors must decide the case solely on what they hear in the courtroom, and cautioned: "This is not a political trial."
"It was mentioned by both political campaigns and the presidential campaign last year, in some instances very, very imprudently," he said.
And he said there has been inaccurate information written by people who "don't know what you're going to know. Those of you who are selected for this jury, who are going to hear for yourselves the real evidence in this case."
The judge said Rittenhouse's constitutional right to a fair trial, not the Second Amendment right to bear arms, will come into play, and "I don't want it to get sidetracked into other issues."
Still, many jurors said they had already made up their minds, and at least 19 had been dismissed by the lunch break for a variety of reasons. Among them were one person was dropped from the case after she said she was bound by the Biblical injunction "Thou shall not kill," even in cases of self-defense.
A man who said he had "been commenting consistently on news feeds in Facebook" was also excused.
Schroeder told attorneys he thinks picking the jury from 150 prospective jurors could be accomplished in a day.