As jury deliberations in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse — the 18-year-old facing multiple charges related to the shooting of three men during the Kenosha, Wisconsin, riots in 2020 — continue, coverage of the case continues to dominate media headlines.
This has led many to wonder, why was the jury in this case not sequestered?
Those questions became more prominent following a report on Thursday indicating that at least one jury member may have been following media coverage of the trial.
It is possible the juror was referring to the media coverage outside the courthouse, although Bogel-Burroughs’s reporting gives no indication whether or not this is the case.
The former seems more likely, as @AndrewCMcCarthy's hunch that the media coverage might be frightening jurors away from acquittal appears to be justified.
— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) November 19, 2021
Did a juror just admit she has been following media coverage of the case? pic.twitter.com/5zIt5eeavw
— Jack Posobiec ✝️ (@JackPosobiec) November 19, 2021
Regardless, it appears that the written jury instructions in this case do not prohibit the jury from viewing media coverage.
Rather, it merely suggests jurors should disregard any opinions they hear.
“You will not be swayed by sympathy, prejudice, passion or political beliefs. You will disregard any opinions which you may have regarding what you believe to be my opinions on the guilt or innocence of the defendant,” Judge Bruce Schroeder’s instructions for the jury read.
“You will disregard the claims or opinions of any other person or media or social networking site. You will pay no heed to the opinions of anyone, even the President of the United States or of the President before him.”
Experts disagree on whether or not sequestering juries has any effect on their verdicts.
John Pierce, attorney for Pierce Law, who represented Rittenhouse, told Fox News he doesn’t believe it has any effect.
“However … if there was a conviction and it can be shown that there was an undue impact from some sort of mob justice warriors … that can be ethic grounds from either an appeal or a habeas corpus petition afterward,” Pierce said.
Conversely, legal analyst Trace A. Pearson told Fox News that failing to sequester a jury in a high-profile case like that of Rittenhouse could lead to outside sources influencing the outcome.
“This prevents, most of the time, the influence of outside sources of information,” Pearson said.
“Jurors are instructed by the judge to only to consider evidence and not to consider information gleaned from news reports and conversations, they shouldn’t have had, with their family and friends.”