Mail app

Rittenhouse defense seeks mistrial after iPhone Mail app compressed key video evidence

Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin has been derailed again due to basic technology issues: Rittenhouse’s defense attorneys today asked for a mistrial because prosecutors sent them video from drone by e-mail, which compressed the video in size. That’s after earlier arguments about what pinch-to-zoom does or doesn’t do, and finds him struggling with screenshot functionality on his Galaxy S20.

Rittenhouse faces five counts of shooting three men and killing two during a protest in Kenosha last year. CNN reports that the motion to mistrial focuses on when and how defense attorneys received a copy of a drone video showing the shootings that was shown to the jury in open court.

Rittenhouse’s attorneys say they only received a copy of the drone video on Nov. 5, after the trial began, and that instead of the state-held 11.2MB video, the file that they received was only 3.6MB. “What this means is that the video provided to the defense was not as clear as the video kept by the state,” said the motion to vacate the trial.

Prosecutors said they only obtained the video file directly from the drone operator after the trial began – the footage was already public, as it aired on The Tucker Carlson Show on Fox News a few days after the shooting during an appearance by the defendant’s first lawyer, and a lower quality version of the video was part of the defense exhibits.

Prosecutors said the person who took the footage came to investigators after the trial began and forwarded a higher-quality version of the video to a detective via AirDrop. The detective brought the video to court and within minutes of arriving the prosecution told defense attorneys that they had obtained a much higher quality version of the video than was previously available. The detective emailed a copy to Rittenhouse’s attorney, Natalie Wisco, who uses an Android mobile device, and she transferred that file to the defense laptop.

Assistant District Attorney James Kraus told the court that “switching from an iPhone to an Android, it seems, somehow compressed the file […] we had no idea this would happen. We gave what we thought was the complete file to Mrs. Wisco […] it arrived without objection and was on display for four days, displayed for the jury on full display. The prosecution says they did not know the version they received was substandard until just days ago when Wisco viewed the file they received on a laptop from the defense in court.

The iPhone’s Mail app automatically compresses video files sent as an attachment, and the defense attorney describes getting a renamed .mov file in a format that looks exactly like a compressed video from the app Apple Mail from an iPhone user. The defense was eventually able to recover the full-resolution video file after sending a lawyer to retrieve it from a USB drive.

Wisconsin defense attorney Jessa Nicholson Goetz recounts The edge that “it is not normal for videos or other electronic evidence to be AirDropped to the defense attorney in the middle of a trial. That is to say very atypical.”

According to Goetz, Wisconsin law states that “any evidence the state intends to use at trial must be disclosed ‘within a reasonable time before trial'” and that “a mid-trial AirDrop does not respond.” in no way meet the requirements”. She also notes that Wisconsin prosecutors and courts routinely process video evidence. “Many police departments require body cameras, and virtually every patrol car in the state is equipped with video that automatically turns on if the vehicle’s emergency lights are activated. All of these videos are regularly delivered via USB or CD-ROM/DVD,” Goetz explains. “I have never come across a version of video evidence that is different or lower in quality than the original video.”

As to why the evidence-handling procedures in this case seem so sloppy, Goetz says The edge that rules of evidence vary from county to county, with some courts using online portals to transfer files back and forth, some requiring hard copies to be mailed, and others requiring prosecutors to authorize defense attorneys to physically retrieve the files they need from USB drives.

Rittenhouse’s defense initially requested a mistrial with prejudice, which would have prevented the case from going to trial again. He removed the “with prejudice” from the request, and so far the judge has not ruled on the motion, even as the jury deliberates and watches the video. NBC 5 News reports that Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder said resolving the issue would require expert witness testimony.