Kyle Rittenhouse trial: How often are mistrial arguments successful?


CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Kyle Rittenhouse’s defense is attempting to get the homicide case thrown out, but how and how often do mistrial arguments work?

Rittenhouse is on trial over the fatal shootings he committed during the unrest that erupted in Kenosha last year over the wounding of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white Wisconsin police officer. He could get life in prison on the charges.

Rittenhouse testified Wednesday, but his nearly daylong testimony was interrupted by an angry exchange in which his lawyers demanded a mistrial over what they argued were out-of-bounds questions asked of him by the chief prosecutor.

The word mistrial is often thrown around in high-profile cases like Rittenhouse’s or the one involving former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, but the bar for a mistrial is quite high and they are not common.

The last time a nationwide survey was conducted, from 1996-98, only 4% of more than 1,300 cases ended in a mistrial and 6% in a hung jury.

According to the American Bar Association, there are four main reasons a trial can be declared a mistrial: tainted jury selection, a fundamental error unfair to the defendant, juror misconduct and a hung jury.

An example of tainted jury selection would be learning someone on the jury has preconceived biases. An example of juror misconduct would a juror having contact with the accused during a trial whereas a hung jury is when the jury can’t make a decision on whether the defendant is guilty or innocent.

A fundamental error unfair to the defendant is the reason Rittenhouse’s defense is expected to focus in on after the judge admonished the prosecution for “overreach.” But to trigger a mistrial, the “unfairness” must be egregious enough that it can’t be fixed by telling the jury to ignore it in deliberations.

Rittenhouse’s attorneys said they would seek a mistrial with prejudice — meaning the case could not be re-filed — something Judge Bruce Schroeder said he would consider later.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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