KENOSHA, Wis. – The Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial took an emotional and heated turn Wednesday, when Rittenhouse cried on the stand, the judge berated prosecuting attorney Thomas Binger and the defense asked for a mistrial.
Rittenhouse testified Wednesday that a man he is accused of murdering threatened to kill him on a night of violent protests in Kenosha last year after the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Rittenhouse, 18, broke down as he described the events of Aug. 25, 2020, that led to him fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum, 36. Rittenhouse is also accused of murdering Anthony Huber, 26, and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, 27.
I didn’t commit any wrongdoing. I defended myself,” Rittenhouse testified Wednesday.
Rittenhouse was calm to start his testimony but began to cry before the judge called for a morning break. He was able to complete the questions from his defense lawyers.
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Before the court broke for lunch, Judge Bruce Schroeder reprimanded prosecutor Binger over his lines of questioning. Rittenhouse’s defense team asked for a mistrial — meaning Rittenhouse could not be retried — but Schroeder did not immediately rule on the motion.
Rittenhouse and his attorneys said his acts were self-defense as he feared for his life that evening. Intentional homicide, reckless and attempted murder charges are all possible. He could face life imprisonment if convicted.
Rittenhouse said Rosenbaum screamed, “If I catch any of you (expletives) alone, I’m going to (expletive) kill you!” and said, “I’m going to cut your (expletive) hearts out!”
Rittenhouse stated, “I was shocked.”
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The testimony came a day after the state rested and the defense began its case.
Binger’s cross-examination of Rittenhouse drew a couple of serious admonishments from the judge.
The first came as Binger pointed out that after 14 months of news coverage, investigations, social media commentary and seven days of trial, Rittenhouse was now telling “your side of the story.”
Defense attorney Mark Richards objected that Binger was commenting the defendant’s right to remain silent.
Binger claimed that he was trying show Rittenhouse had ample time to adjust his testimony according to evidence presented.
After the jury was sent out, Judge Bruce Schroeder told Binger he was close to or over the line.
“It’s a grave constitutional violation to talk about” Rittenhouse’s right to remain silent, Schroeder told Binger. “This is not permitted.”
Another conflict arose after Binger questioned Rittenhouse about an incident, recorded on video, 15 days before the fatal shootings.
Rittenhouse was with his friend in the car, watching as people left a CVS shop across the street. Rittenhouse thought the people who left the CVS store were robbers or shoplifters.
Rittenhouse said, “I wish I had my AR, I’d fire some rounds at them.”
Months ago, Binger sought to introduce the video as evidence of “other acts” that he said showed Rittenhouse’s state of mind, his willingness or desire to use deadly force to protect property, without full information.
Schroeder stated that he strongly believed in not allowing it.
Richards protested when Binger spoke of the CVS Wednesday. The jury was then sent.
Richards requested that Binger is strongly disapproved.
Binger apologized for not seeking permission from the judge before bringing up the CVS incident but said Schroeder’s earlier ruling left the door open to raising it at trial.
“Don’t be brazen! Schroeder was furious and told Binger to stop asking questions. “I don’t want another issue,” Schroeder added. “Is that clear?”
Defense attorneys argued Binger knew introducing the evidence would be detrimental to Rittenhouse and suggested he may have intentionally sought a mistrial so the case could be tried again.
Schroeder assured the state that he’d give it time to reply and blasted Binger again. Binger stated that he raised the matter “in good faith.”
“I don’t believe you,” Schroeder replied.
Binger and Rittenhouse had an emotional discussion later that afternoon. Binger spent nearly an hour asking Rittenhouse why he brought his gun along. Rittenhouse also asked Binger about the risks he saw in the crowd.
Many of the questions were repetitive. Binger focused on Rittenhouse’s reasons for taking his AR-15 as he moved throughout the crowd before the shootings, since Rittenhouse had been asking if people needed medical care and testified that he was intending to extinguish fires. The prosecutor sought to drive home the state’s contention that Rittenhouse created the dangerous situation that led to bloodshed that night.
During cross-examination, Rittenhouse said that he “didn’t want to have to shoot” Rosenbaum, the first man to fall that night, but that Rosenbaum chased him and had threatened to kill him.
“If I would have let Mr. Rosenbaum take my firearm from me, he would have used it and killed me with it,” Rittenhouse said, “and probably killed more people.”
Rittenhouse acknowledged that the strap holding his gun was in place and that he had both hands on the weapon.
After Rittenhouse said Rosenbaum tried to grab his gun, Binger asked, “So whoever has that gun is a threat?”
Rittenhouse refused to answer the question. Later he said, “I didn’t want to have to kill anybody that night.”
Contributing to The Associated Press