Will Rittenhouse Testify In His Own Defense? UPDATE: Rittenhouse Takes The Stand

Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool

I confess, I never seriously considered the possibility until I ran across this nugget in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel coverage of what happened in the Rittenhouse trial on Tuesday.

Could this be the day Kyle Rittenhouse takes the witness stand in his own defense?

The prosecution rested at midday Tuesday, and the defense  lawyers got in three witnesses of their own in the afternoon.

When court finished for the day, lead defense counsel Mark Richards wouldn’t tell reporters if his client might take the stand Wednesday.

I would be shocked to see Rittenhouse take the witness stand, mostly because the prosecution’s case has been so weak that I don’t think its necessary for the teen to testify in his own defense. The state has rested its case, and not one of its witnesses was able to definitively prove that Rittenhouse was acting as the initial aggressor in the chaotic seconds that led to the shooting deaths of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, as well as the wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz. Grosskreutz himself testified that Rittenhouse only shot him after he had pointed his own pistol at the then-17-year old, though Grosskreutz says he didn’t intentionally point his firearm at the teen.

Other witnesses called by prosecution cast similar doubts on the state’s argument.

Balch and Lackowski said they saw Rosenbaum attempting to set fires, being restrained by other people, and using the N-word while shouting at armed men to “shoot me.” Balch said Rosenbaum even threatened him and Rittenhouse, warning, “I catch any of you guys alone tonight, I’m going to [f***ing] kill you.”

McGinniss, the video director for the conservative news website The Daily Caller, testified that he witnessed Rosenbaum chasing Rittenhouse that evening. McGinniss even performed a physical demonstration of Rosenbaum’s movements, testifying that Rosenbaum adopted a “low” and “athletic” position, then lunged forward and reached toward the barrel of Rittenhouse’s gun.

“It was very clear to me that he was reaching specifically for the weapon, because that’s where his hands went,” McGinniss said. “The rifle was lower than where [Rosenbaum’s] hands were, so [Rosenbaum’s] hands were going down… Kyle Rittenhouse dodged around it, and then leveled the weapon, and fired.”

Dr. Douglas Kelley, a forensic pathologist who examined Rosenbaum’s body, testified that Rosenbaum was shot four times at a close range within four feet. Kelley said the first shots went into Rosenbaum’s groin, hand, and thigh while he faced forward, and the final two shots went into his head and back at a downward angle as he turned horizontally to Rittenhouse.

Prosecutors suggested that the angle of the final two shots meant that Rosenbaum was falling while he was shot, while Rittenhouse’s attorneys argued that the angle of the shots signaled Rosenbaum was lunging at Rittenhouse. Kelley testified that both scenarios were possible.

In the courtroom, Kyle Rittenhouse has the presumption of innocence. Prosecutors have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Rittenhouse was not acting in self-defense that night, and I don’t think they’ve come to close to meeting that standard. Even the forensic pathologist couldn’t definitely conclude that Rosenbaum was falling, and not lunging towards Rittenhouse as McGinniss previously testified.

Generally, in a murder trial like this, you’d expect to see the defendant testify only if what they have to say can directly contradict material witnesses or if their testimony might be expected to elicit a sympathetic response by the jury. I just don’t think it’s necessary here, and I would be shocked to see Kyle Rittenhouse take the stand now that the defense has begun calling its own witnesses.

A more likely possibility among today’s witnesses: Gaige Grosskreutz’s now-former roommate Jacob Marshall. Townhall’s Julio Rosas, who’s been in Kenosha covering the trial live, noted this exchange a couple of days ago.

If Marshall does take the stand, will he state under oath that he lied when he posted his Facebook comment, or will he instead accuse Grosskreutz of lying under oath when he told the jury he never said what Marshall detailed on social media?

Honestly, though, even that bit of drama won’t change the fundamentals of this case, no matter what Marshall says. I’ve watched the vast majority of the testimony live, and while I had my own thoughts about Rittenhouse’s guilt or innocence going in to the trial, I’ve also been keeping an open mind because I knew we were all going to hear information that wasn’t really part of the public record. That new evidence has done nothing to make me believe beyond a reasonable doubt that Rittenhouse wasn’t acting in self-defense. In fact, I’m more convinced than ever that Rittenhouse was defending himself that night, and that this case was brought to trial based more on political calculations than the weight of the evidence.

****UPDATE****

Well, consider me shocked. Kyle Rittenhouse and Jacob Marshall both took the stand on Wednesday morning. In a brief appearance, Marshall told jurors that he lied in his Facebook post about what he claimed Grosskreutz had told him, blaming his actions on “pure anger.”

After Marshall concluded his testimony, Rittenhouse surprisingly took the stand and began his testimony. We’ll have more on what Rittenhouse had to say later this afternoon.