Rittenhouse judge banned MSNBC after journalist allegedly followed vehicle transporting jury members
Judge Bruce Schroeder, who presided over the double homicide trial, barredNBC’s sister network MSNBC from the courtroom on 18 November after police reported that they had briefly detained a journalist from the network a day earlier.
The journalist was identified as James Joseph Morrison, 62, according to police records.
Mr Morrison’s face was pixelated in the bodycam footage that was released by the police and uploaded by legal news portal Law and Crime on Tuesday.
He was pulled up by law enforcement officials and can be seen sitting inside a car in the footage. Mr Morrison told the police that he worked as a producer for the network and said he was told to follow the vehicle.
He, however, said the intention was not to speak or photograph any of the jury members, but to be “discreet” and obtain the vehicle’s location.
Kenosha’s police department had earlier said Mr Morrison was “briefly taken into custody” as his “vehicle was approximately one city block behind the unmarked van.”
Members of the jury are, by court order, meant to remain anonymous.
Police added that “there was no breach of security regarding the jury, nor were there any photographs obtained.”
The incident occurred on 17 November when jurors in the Rittenhouse case were still deliberating a verdict.
Mr Rittenhouse was acquitted on 19 November after being charged with killing two men and injuring a third with a semi-automatic rifle during last year’s racial justice protests that took place in Kenosha.
In the video, an officer can be heard asking, “Were you following a vehicle?”
“I was trying to see — I was being called by New York, going, maybe these are people you need to follow, but I, I don’t know,” Mr Morrison said, referring to the New York office of NBC.
“I was trying to…” Mr Morrison is heard trailing off.
“You was trying to what?” an officer asked.
“Just do what they told me to do,” Mr Morrison responded.
“New York told you to follow a vehicle?” the officer asked.
“Yes,” Mr Morrison is heard saying.
NBC News later issued a statement saying Mr Morrison was a freelancer with the network and that they regretted the incident.
The network added that while Mr Morrison was caught for a traffic violation, he never intended to contact or photograph the jurors.
“It was discreet,” Mr Morrison can be heard saying in the video. “I wasn’t, like, you know, going to talk to anybody or anything. Just trying to find a location, that’s all,” he said.
Mr Morrison was then asked to call the person who asked him to follow the vehicle.
Law enforcement officials were put in touch with a person identified as Irene Byon, according to the phone that was held by the police officer in the footage.
Ms Byon identified herself as a booking producer for NBC and then attempted to explain to the police why Mr Morrison was asked to follow the vehicle.
She said they were only trying to see if there were possible leads and not trying to get in contact with any “jury members or whoever’s in the car”.
“You advised him to follow — like — any vehicle?” the officer can be heard asking in the video. “Did you know which vehicle he was following?”
NBC had “people positioned in different areas in the courthouse to see if anyone… would be able to…” Ms Byon can be heard saying after being interrupted by chatter between the police officials.
“We’re going to ask you to not do that… this is huge. We can’t afford anything crazy happening. Putting people in dangerous positions. This individual violated some traffic laws here, doing this. So we’re gonna ask you to refrain from doing that,” the officer told Ms Byon, who then can be heard apologising to the police.
Mr Morrison has been charged with a traffic violation and is due to appear in court this month.
No arrests took place as the police had interrupted any possible opportunity for jury tampering.