The judge presiding over the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial on Thursday banned MSNBC from entering the courthouse after police in Kenosha, Wis., stopped and briefly detained a freelance producer who authorities suggested was following a bus transporting the 12-person jury deliberating the teen’s fate.
The jury concluded its third day of deliberations late Thursday afternoon following the announcement and will resume Friday morning.
Judge Bruce Schroeder said that Kenosha police pulled over a person who identified himself as James J. Morrison on Wednesday night after he ran a red light about a block behind the jury bus. Schroeder said that Morrison told police he was a producer with NBC News and MSNBC and had been instructed by his supervisor, Irene Byon, to follow the bus.
“I’ve instructed that no one from MSNBC News will be permitted in this building for the duration of this trial,” Schroeder said. “This is a very serious matter and I don’t know what the ultimate truth of it is, but absolutely it would go without much thinking that someone who is following the jury bus, that’s an extremely serious matter and will be referred to the proper authorities.”
Kenosha police said in a tweet that “a person who is alleging to be affiliated with a national media outlet was briefly taken into custody and issued several traffic related citations.”
“Police suspect this person was trying to photograph jurors,” they said, adding: “There was no breach of security regarding the jury, nor were there any photographs obtained. This investigation remains active and open.”
In a statement, MSNBC confirmed that a freelancer for the cable news network received a traffic citation, but denied that he was trying to photograph jurors.
“While the traffic violation took place near the jury van, the freelancer never contacted or intended to contact the jurors during deliberations, and never photographed or intended to photograph them,” MSNBC said. “We regret the incident and will fully cooperate with the authorities on any investigation.”
Since the high-profile trial began earlier this month, Schroeder has been critical of the media coverage of the case and, in particular, the way he has presided over it. On Wednesday, he suggested that he might not allow television cameras in the courtroom for future trials.
“I’ve always been a firm believer in it because I believe the people should be able to see what’s going on,” Schroeder said. “But when I see what’s being done, it’s really quite frightening.”
The judge announced his decision to ban MSNBC from the courthouse while the jury was deliberating.
The 18-year-old Rittenhouse has been charged with five felony counts, including first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide, for fatally shooting two people and injuring another during tense protests against racial injustice in Kenosha in the summer of 2020. He faces life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.