KENOSHA, Wis. – The jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial heard competing narratives Monday as the prosecution and defense laid out closing arguments over whether the teen should be held liable for killing two people and injuring a third during protests last year – a case that has riled racial and political tensions across the USA.
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. However, although the prosecution objected the judge agreed to interpret the defense’s argument.
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, the 12-member jury panel will deliberate Rittenhouse’s future – meaning a verdict could be close.
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.
Defense attorneys claimed that he was in fact a Kenoshan. He felt the need to defend and protect his community and was driven to death by his youthful passion for patriotism.
Days after Jacob Blake was shot by a police officer of color in the back, the shooting sparked unrest and looting that led to arson attacks last year in Kenosha.
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.
Prosecution closing: Rittenhouse had no remorse
Thomas Binger, assistant district attorney, described Rittenhouse’s case to be a case against a 17 year-old who had been placed on curfew because he didn’t genuinely care about protecting property or helping others 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 cadet training that also included EMT 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 claimed Rittenhouse’s right to self defense was lost when he provoked 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.
Even though he did not support such acts, he urged jurors to not believe that looting or property damage was a justification for shootings.
Binger stated, “What you can’t do is to kill somebody on the streets for arson.”
Rittenhouse defence: Kyle was there for the community
Rittenhouse’s attorneys presented Rittenhouse’s self-defense argument during their closing arguments. This summarizes the day of testimony in order to portray the teen, who wanted “help the community” amid violent 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 stated that Rittenhouse was then attacked by “mob” and forced to fire 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 said that Rittenhouse was “somebody else from the opposite side” who had been “putting out their fires,” causing trouble for them and stopping them from creating 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 remove politics from it, as in Democrat or Republican. But the District Attorney’s Office will continue to pursue this case since they require someone who is responsible.
Richards stated that Rittenhouse was not only entitled to light a fire for the first three persons shot on that night, but that he was also grateful for Rittenhouse’s 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.Rittenhouse jury will look at lesser charges in fatal shootings. This is what it 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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Was there any evidence of what happened on the night?
Rittenhouse was located in Antioch Illinois about 20 miles away from Kenosha. 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 claimed that he had met with the owners of an arson-damaged car company.
Nicholas Smith, an ex-employee who lives nearby, was asked by the owners if he would be willing to help with the night watch at the other two business 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. Black kept the gun at his Kenosha house.
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 converged. 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