In the final act of the high-profile trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, defense lawyers attacked the prosecution as malicious actors attempting to mislead the jury by painting the victims as heroes.
On Monday the prosecution and defense presented the jury with their final arguments. Rittenhouse, now 18, shot and killed two men and injured a third during a chaotic night in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020 during a protest against racial injustice. The teen had traveled to Kenosha from a nearby Illinois town, armed with an AR-15-style rifle, and presented himself as a medic who was there to help people.
The defense argued at length that Rittenhouse shot Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man killed that evening, in self-defense, whereas the prosecution aimed to show him as the instigator of the violence.
“Kyle shot Joseph Rosenbaum to stop a threat to his person,” said lead defense attorney Mark Richards. “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 irrational and crazy.”
Richards seemed to take issue with the prosecution describing those who attempted to disarm Rittenhouse as “heroes” and instead described those killed or shot by Rittenhouse as “rioters” or, in the case of Rosenbaum, as a “bad man.” He presented to the jury a slide that listed Anthony Huber—whom Rittenhouse shot and killed after Huber hit him with a skateboard—as a “rioter” who “lifted his middle finger to the police.”
A slide about Gaige Grosskreutz—whom Rittenhouse shot in the arm shortly after killing Huber—described the man as “an affiliate of the People’s Revolution.”
Richards also spent time attacking several witnesses as unreliable. He attacked the prosecution’s main argument—that Rittenhouse provoked the incident—as one they’re only using because the state’s case had “blown up in their face.”
Several times a fiery Richards implied that Thomas Binger, the assistant district attorney, was actively misleading the jury, if not flat-out lying. Within the first few minutes of his closing statements, Richards said Binger “lied to the jury’s faces.”
“This case is not a game; this is my client’s life,” said Richards. “We don’t play fast and loose with the facts.”
The prosecution presented their closing arguments to the jury earlier Monday and painted Rittenhouse as the instigator of the night’s bloodshed. Binger sought to convince the jury that the crowd that attacked Rittenhouse believed he was an active shooter who needed stopping. Binger compared Rittenhouse to a “quack doctor practicing without a license that puts lives at risk.” He asked the jury to “evaluate the defendant’s performance as a medic that night.”
“Well, on one hand, he wrapped up an ankle and I think helped somebody who had a cut on his hand, yay,” said Binger. “On the other hand, he killed two people, blew off Gaige Grosskreutz’s arm, and put two other lives in jeopardy.”
On Friday, the prosecution sought to include several “lesser included” charges against Rittenhouse, essentially hedging their bet—Judge Bruce Schroeder allowed for only a few to be included.
On August 25, 2020, Rittenhouse, then 17, traveled to Kenosha after seeing reports on social media of protesters flooding the streets and causing property damage during a protest sparked by local police shooting and paralyzing Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man. Armed with an AR-15-style rifle, Rittenhouse went to defend a car dealership, pretending to be a medic.
The defense and the prosecution agree that Rittenhouse shot and killed Rosenbaum, who was unarmed after Rosenbaum chased him in a parking lot. Rittenhouse then fled the scene and claimed he was headed toward police but was confronted by a group of people. He fell, and while on the ground, he shot at an unidentified man trying to kick him, shot and killed Huber, and also shot and injured Grosskreutz, who’d approached him with a handgun. (Grosskreutz testified he thought Rittenhouse was an active shooter.)
Eighteen jurors are currently hearing the trial—it was originally 19, but one was dismissed after making a joke about the police shooting of Blake to the rest of the jurors. Later Monday, 12 jurors from the 18 will be selected via a random draw to decide the verdict.
Deliberation will begin Monday night.
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