KENOSHA, Wis. — The jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial was hearing competing narratives in closing arguments Monday after the judge dismissed a lesser weapons charged Rittenhouse faced.

Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed a misdemeanor count Rittenhouse faced over whether he was a minor in possession of a firearm illegally. The defense argued the charge couldn’t apply because of what they said is an exception in the law. However, although the prosecution objected the judge agreed to interpret the defence’s argument.

Before the jury enters deliberations, lawyers on both sides began to give their closing arguments in a case that began Nov. 1 and 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 fatally shot two men and wounded a third during a violent protest.

The prosecution has painted Rittenhouse as a tourist vigilante from Illinois, armed with bad judgment and a rifle he couldn’t legally possess, looking for righteous vengeance against anti-police rioters.

Defense attorneys for his client claim that he was in fact a Kenoshan. Driven by a youth sense of patriotism, he killed two protesters to preserve his life and injured another.

The shooting occurred days after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, multiple times in the back, leading to several nights of social unrest, looting and arson 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. 

Kyle Rtttenhouse looks back as attorneys argue about the charges that will be presented to the jury during proceedings at the Kenosha County Courthouse on November 12, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Rittenhouse, now 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.

Two counts of reckless endangerment in first degree are also pending against him for firing four shots at Rosenbaum in one second.

Prosecution starts to lay out case against Rittenhouse

Before the trial broke for lunch, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger began his arguments, casting Rittenhouse as a 17-year-old out after a curfew, who did not genuinely want to protect property or help others the night of the shooting.

Binger stated that 17-year olds shouldn’t be running on streets carrying AR-15s. “This is precisely what happens.”

Binger repeated that Rittenhouse lied about being an EMT and said he would cast doubt on the claim by witnesses that Rosenbaum threatened Rittenhouse.

Binger claims Rittenhouse caused the shootings when he raised his rifle in front of Rosenbaum, and Rosenbaum started to pursue him. The defense disputes this claim. Binger stated that Rittenhouse’s right to self-defense was violated by initiating an attack. 

Binger used Rittenhouse rifles as a way to demonstrate what had happened on that particular evening.

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 on his four times. It was his choice. Every bullet from his gun is his responsibility. Binger explained that Binger doesn’t let him pull the trigger too fast.

He also advised jurors that they should not think property damage or looting were justifications for the shootings.

Binger explained, “What I don’t get is to kill someone on the street because they are committing arson.”

Jury instructions are read by judge, misdemeanor weapon charges dismissed

Schroeder provided Monday’s instructions to the jury about the components of each offense and the options for Rittenhouse being found guilty of lesser crimes.

Schroeder interrupted the instructions at least twice and, at one time for an extended conference with attorneys before releasing the jury to go.

Schroeder said he was worried the instructions didn’t make clear when the jury should consider the lesser included charges but later brought the jurors back in to continue the reading of the instructions.

Find out more on these charges.Rittenhouse jury will look at lesser charges in fatal shootings. Let’s see what this means.

Since Rittenhouse has raised self-defense, the critical question jurors will decide is whether his decision to use deadly force was reasonable.

Because so much video, most of it already seen multiple times, will be played again in the closing arguments, Schroeder reluctantly agreed to give each side up to 2½ hours to complete their arguments, and in the case of the prosecution, its rebuttal.

Twenty jurors –  including eight alternates – were chosen after one day of questioning, dismissals for cause and peremptory strikes by the lawyers. A joke made by a Blake shooter was enough to get one man fired.

Later, a woman was exonerated after she claimed she had complications during her pregnancy. Before the final twelve begin to deliberate the case, the six remaining alternates will randomly be selected.

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Rittenhouse was only 18 years old, so a misdemeanor gun offense seemed likely to result in a conviction. But his lawyers argued Wisconsin law included 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.

In addition to the many witnesses, Rittenhouse also took the stand during the trial and broke down as his lawyers asked him about the events leading up to the shootings. He was pressed by the prosecution to explain many details about the evening and what he saw as the dangers.

During the cross-examination, Rittenhouse’s lawyers also took exception to some of the state’s questions, leading to a motion for a mistrial with prejudice, on which Schroeder did not rule.

There are tears, screaming and many calls for a mistrial.A dramatic day for the Kyle Rittenhouse murder case

How was the night after the shootings?

Rittenhouse lived in Antioch, Illinois, about 20 miles from Kenosha, when 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 prior two nights. Rittenhouse claimed that he had met with the owners of an arson-damaged car company.

The owners asked Nicholas Smith (an ex-employee who lives nearby) if he would be willing to watch the two locations.

Smith reached out to Rittenhouse and Black for help. They returned the next night 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:After the shooting death of Jacob Blake by police officers, a visual timeline shows violence in Kenosha

Rittenhouse met Rosenbaum later in the night, when he was taken from the group. Numerous witnesses witnessed Rosenbaum aggressively acting toward those armed individuals who tried to put out flames and prevent property damage.

After running briefly away from Rosenbaum Rittenhouse turned around and shot Rosenbaum between two cars. Rittenhouse ran northward on Sheridan Road as angry observers converged. Rittenhouse stumbled about half a mile back from the police line and fell onto the street.

He fired four more shots – two at the man who kicked him in the face, one at Huber who had struck him with his skateboard and tried to take his gun, and once at Grosskreutz, a volunteer medic at protests who ran up on Rittenhouse while holding a pistol.

The defense tried to portray Rosenbaum – who suffered from bipolar disorder – as the catalyst to the night’s violence. Witnesses said that he threatened Rittenhouse with death if Rittenhouse was not caught.

The prosecution emphasized that no one else considered Rosenbaum –  who was unarmed but for a brief time he was seen carrying a chain – as a threat, and none of many video’s captured the specific threats of violence some witnesses said they heard.

According to the state Rittenhouse chased Rosenbaum first before the older man ran after the indicted defendant.

Binger, in his opening statements, stated that Rittenhouse would not be found to have acted reasonably.

Contributing: Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel



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