KENOSHA, Wis. – A jury will start deliberating in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial Tuesday morning after a day filled with competing narratives over whether the teen should be held liable for killing two people and injuring a third during protests last year.
The case has riled racial and political tensions across the USA and created several courtroom spectacles since it began, with the presiding judge clashing heatedly with prosecutors.
At the start of the day, Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed a misdemeanor charge that Rittenhouse was a minor in possession of a firearm illegally. The defense argued the charge couldn’t apply because of an exception in the law. Although the prosecution objected to the charge, the judge agreed with defense interpretations.
The trial, which began Nov. 1, featured eight days of testimony from about 30 witnesses and more than a dozen videos from the night of Aug. 25, 2020, when then-17-year-old Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, fatally shot two men and wounded a third during a violent protest.
After hearing closing arguments from the prosecutors and defense all day Monday, the 12-member jury panel will deliberate Rittenhouse’s future starting Tuesday morning.
The prosecution painted Rittenhouse as a tourist vigilante from Illinois, armed with bad judgment and a rifle he couldn’t legally possess, looking for vengeance against anti-police rioters.
According to his defense lawyers, he was an essentially Kenoshan who felt compelled to murder two people to save himself and inflict serious injuries to another.
This shooting took place days after Jacob Blake (a Black man) was shot multiple times in his back by a white officer. It also led to many nights of violence, looting, and arson in Kenosha last year.
The governor of Wisconsin, Tony Evers stated that in the event of a verdict, he would send 500 soldiers from the Wisconsin National Guard to Kenosha. Tony Evers said he was sending about 500 Wisconsin National Guard troops to the Kenosha area to be on standby to help “hundreds of officers from volunteering law enforcement agencies” if needed, according to his office.
Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the killing of Anthony Huber, 26; first-degree reckless homicide in the killing of Joseph Rosenbaum, 36; and attempted first-degree intentional homicide in the shooting of Gaige Grosskreutz, 28.
He faces two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment for shooting at an unidentified man and in the direction of Richard McGinniss, a videographer who was in the line of fire when Rittenhouse fired four rounds at Rosenbaum in less than a second.
On Tuesday, the jury will start to deliberate
A jury will start deliberating Rittenhouse’s case and decide whether Rittenhouse, now 18, should be sentenced to death.
After hearing closing arguments by prosecutors and defense, the jury was sent home Monday night. It had heard hours of testimony about what led to Rittenhouse’s firing an AR-15-style rifle in violent protests across Wisconsin.
Bruce Schroeder Judge stated Tuesday that the panel will meet again at 9 AM, local time. Rittenhouse will now be the fate of his jury, which currently has 18 members. However, it will only take 12 to reduce that number.
“Members of the jury, the time has now come with a great burden of reaching a just, fair and conscientious decision in this case will be placed totally with you,” Schroeder said. “You will not be swayed by sympathy, passion, prejudice or political beliefs.”
Prosecution closing: Rittenhouse had no remorse
Thomas Binger, Assistant District Attorney, summarized Rittenhouse’s case as 17-year old who was out of school after being placed under curfew and did not want to help anyone or protect their property that night. Binger said Rittenhouse had no remorse or concern for those he shot and those he killed, depicting him and others strapped with AR-15-style rifles as “wannabe soldiers acting tough.”
Binger stated that 17-year olds shouldn’t be running around with AR-15s on their streets.
Binger repeated that Rittenhouse lied when he told people in the crowd and a member of the media that he was a certified EMT as he carried a medic bag.
Rittenhouse participated in a program for cadets that offered EMT training and firefighter training. Binger tied Rittenhouse’s lies to a claim by witnesses that Rosenbaum threatened Rittenhouse, something he noted wasn’t caught on video despite footage chronicling most of the evening.
Binger stated that Rittenhouse was deprived of his self-defense rights by initiating the attack.He said the crowd protesting that night was “full of heroes” who sought to stop what they believed to be an active shooter after Rosenbaum was shot. Binger claimed they had the right to use force in order to prevent Rittenhouse.
In the killing of Rosenbaum, Binger said, a bullet to the back was the fatal one, but Rittenhouse could have stopped after the first, which hit Rosenbaum’s pelvis and caused him to fall, if he truly feared for his life.
“The defendant decided to pull the trigger on his AR-15 four times. He made that decision. Every bullet from his gun is his responsibility. Binger explained that Binger doesn’t let him pull the trigger too fast.
His plea to jurors was not to believe property destruction or looting were justifications for the shootings, even though they disagree with them.
Binger explained, “What I don’t get is to kill someone on the streets for committing arson,”
Rittenhouse defense: Kyle was there as a ‘helper’ to the community
Rittenhouse’s lawyers presented his defense in closing arguments. They summarized the testimony and depicted the teenager as one who “helped the community” during the protests.
His attorney, Mark Richards, said, the first killing happened with Rosenbaum injured because “he was chasing my client and going to kill him.” Richards explained that Rittenhouse fled toward police, was assaulted by a mob and had to shoot again.
“Kyle wasn’t an active shooter. That is a buzzword that the state wants to latch on to because it excuses the actions of that mob,” Richards said. He reacted to being attacked.”
Richards claimed that the crowd was trying to take Rittenhouse’s money because Rittenhouse is “somebody on the other side of the coin who has been setting out their fires and causing them problems, thus stopping them from wrecking havoc in Kenosha.”
He cast the case against Rittenhouse as a “rush to judgment” with “shoddy” police work.
Richards declared, “This case is political.” “We can make politics of this as in Democrat/Republican, but the District Attorney’s Office continues to move forward with this matter because they need someone to take responsibility.”
Richards stated that Rittenhouse was not only entitled to light a fire for the first three persons shot on that night, but also thanked Rittenhouse for his actions.
Richards stated to the jury that Kyle had shot Joseph Rosenbaum in an attempt to end a threat against his life.
“And I’m glad he shot him because if Joseph Rosenbaum had got that gun I don’t for a minute believe he wouldn’t have used it against somebody else. “He was insane and irrational.”
Judging jury instruction, dismissed misdemeanor weapons charge
Schroeder instructed the jury Monday about the elements of the various offenses charged and options to find Rittenhouse guilty of lesser versions of the crimes.
Schroeder paused the instructions at least twice, once for an extended period to confer with the attorneys and send the jury out of the room. Schroeder stated that he was concerned about the injunctions not clearly indicating when the jury should decide on the lesser charges. He brought the jurors back and continued reading the instructions.
Find out more on these charges.The Rittenhouse jury may consider lesser charges for fatal shootings. Let’s see what this means.
Since Rittenhouse raised self-defense, the critical question jurors will decide is whether his decision to use deadly force was reasonable.
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Rittenhouse is an elderly man and the misdemeanor gun charges were likely to result in a conviction. But his lawyers argued Wisconsin law includes an exception for rifles or shotguns that are not short-barreled. Prosecutors said they believed the charge was still applicable, but they conceded the gun used was not short-barreled, which led to Schroeder dismissing the charge.
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How was the night after the shootings?
Rittenhouse lived about 20 minutes from Kenosha in Antioch Illinois. He and Dominick Black, a close friend who lived in the city, went downtown the morning of Aug. 25 to view the damage done during demonstrations the previous two nights. Rittenhouse stated that he was able to meet the owner of the car dealership destroyed by arson.
Nicholas Smith was a former employee and lived near the owners. He offered to watch the two locations.
Smith reached out to Rittenhouse and Black for help. They returned the next night armed with AR-15-style rifles. Black had bought Rittenhouse’s for him in May because Rittenhouse was underage. The rifle was kept at Black’s Kenosha home.
They spent the majority of their night with five other people at a shop that repairs cars.
It happened this way:The visual timeline of violence and death in Kenosha following the police shooting of Jacob Blake
Rittenhouse was later separated from his group when Rosenbaum encountered him. Many witnesses saw Rosenbaum aggressively acting toward those armed to extinguish fires or stop damage to property.
After running briefly away from Rosenbaum Rittenhouse turned around and shot Rosenbaum. Rittenhouse fled away as angry observers gathered. Rittenhouse fell on the streets after he had stumbled about half a mile back from a police checkpoint.
He fired four more shots – two at a man who kicked him in the face; one at Huber who had struck him with his skateboard and tried to take his gun; and one at Grosskreutz, a volunteer medic at protests who ran up on Rittenhouse while holding a pistol.
Contributing: Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel