After just a single day of jury selection, prosecutors and the defense made their opening statements in the trial of 18-year old Kyle Rittenhouse, who faces the possibility of life in prison without parole if convicted of first degree murder in the deaths of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber during a night of violent protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin last August. Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger told jurors that the Rittenhouse, who was 17-years old at the time of the shooting, was the aggressor that night; showing up in Kenosha when he didn’t live there because he was “drawn to the chaos” like many others.
But despite the fact that there were plenty of people from out of town on the streets of Kenosha that night, Binger reminded jurors that only Rittenhouse has been accused of taking anyone’s life.
Binger addressed 20 jurors, of which a dozen will be selected for deliberations after closing arguments. The rest will be alternates.
Rittenhouse, from nearby Antioch, Illinois, has said he was in Kenosha that night to defend private property and deliver first aid to anyone injured in protests.
And defense lawyer Mark Richards told jurors Tuesday that his client was legally justified to open fire, fearing the men he shot were going to harm him.
“He acted in self-defense, ladies and gentlemen,” Richards said. “The evidence will show his actions on Aug. 25 of 2020 were reasonable under the circumstances as they existed.”
The unrest in Kenosha drew Rittenhouse, then 17, across state lines, armed with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle.
Kenosha is about 20 miles northeast of Antioch and 40 miles south of Milwaukee.
Rittenhouse is charged with reckless homicide, intentional homicide and attempted intentional homicide after he fatally shot Rosenbaum and Huber, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz during the protest, authorities said.
Binger and Richards both said they’ll show how footage shot from infrared FBI camera, showing Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum.
The defense claims it’ll prove that Rosenbaum was chasing Rittenhouse, while the prosecution insists video will show the defendant starting the confrontation.
I’m very curious to know about this video evidence that the prosecution claims to have, because in none of the videos that have publicly been released does Rittenhouse ever appear to be the aggressor. Instead, the footage from the seconds before the shooting shows the teenager running away from a crowd of people.
“Kyle Rittenhouse is under no obligation whatsoever to retreat from Mr. Rosenbaum,” Richards said. “He does. He runs away from him because he doesn’t want a confrontation. He doesn’t want trouble.”
Richards also said his client was forced to shoot Huber because the 26-year-old was dangerously swinging a skateboard at him.
”Kyle Rittenhouse (is) flat on his back, in the most vulnerable position,” Richards said, pointing at an image showing them moments before the fatal round was fired.
“Kyle’s afraid he is going to be disarmed and shot with his own weapon, the evidence will show. He fires one shot, striking Mr. Huber.”
I’m also curious about a claim by Binger that Rittenhouse actually shot four people that night; Rosenbaum, Huber, Gaige Grosskreuz (who survived), and an unidentified individual who the prosecution claims was shot twice.
The prosecutor, Binger, urged jurors to simply look at the facts of the case.
“In most homicide cases the elements that I need to prove might be a little challenging. But here there’s no doubt,” he said.
“There will be no dispute in this record that the defendant had that gun that night, shot eight bullets, four hit Joseph Rosenbaum, two of them hit an unknown individual, one into Anthony Huber’s chest and one into Gaige Grosskreutz’s arm.”
Who was that unknown individual, and why do we still not know anything about them more than a year later? No one showed up at a nearby hospital with a gunshot wound? No one has come forward to claim that Rittenhouse shot them as well?
As for Binger’s assertion that the jury should easily find that Rittenhouse wasn’t acting in self-defense, time will tell, but he’d better be able to produce some video evidence that does indeed show the teenager as the aggressor. From the timeline put together by the Washington Post embedded below, Rittenhouse was hurrying down the street with a fire extinguisher in his hands towards a car lot where protesters were trying to torch vehicles. Rosenbaum begins to pursue Rittenhouse, seemingly for no reason, then throws a bag at him. Just a second later, someone else in the crowd that formed after Rosenbaum began chasing Rittenhouse fires a shot into the air. Rittenhouse is then cornered by Rosenbaum, who is shot as he reaches for Rittenhouse’s rifle.
We’ve seen plenty of other footage of Rittenhouse from earlier that evening, and in none of the video clips does he appear to be aggressive in any way. At one point, he tells a reporter that he’s in Kenosha to protect a business and to provide medical assistance to anyone who needs it. In another, he can be seen standing amongst a crowd of people asking if anyone needs medical attention. But at no time does Rittenhouse appear to be amped up and itching for a fight. Instead, it was Joseph Rosenbaum who was caught on camera about an hour before he was fatally shot, agitated and yelling at someone to shoot him.
The prosecution will say that if Kyle Rittenhouse hadn’t been in Kenosha that night, no one would have died. That may actually be true, but it doesn’t negate Rittenhouse’s right to self-defense if he was in legitimate fear for his life. Based on the video evidence to date, I don’t find it difficult at all to believe that Rittenhouse felt that his life was in danger, but we’ll see if Thomas Binger is able to produce some compelling evidence to the contrary that’s been kept from the public eye since last August.