The fate of Kyle Rittenhouse is now in the hands of the jury.
On Tuesday morning, Judge Bruce Schroeder loaded 18 numbers into a brown tumbler in the Kenosha County courtroom. The roller was brought in front of Rittenhouse, spun, and Schroeder had the teenager draw six numbers. The jurors with a corresponding number were dismissed, and the judge gave short instructions to the remaining jurors.
“Alright, folks, you guys can retire to consider your verdicts,” he said, and the bailiff led them out of the room. Schroeder said farewell to the dismissed jurors by quoting Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, saying, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
Rittenhouse faces charges of first-degree reckless homicide, two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, and two counts of reckless endangerment of safety after shooting and killing two men last summer during protests against police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin. For some of the charges, the judge is allowing the jury to consider “lesser charges,” such as second-degree reckless homicide.
The teenager faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and shooting and maiming Gaige Grosskreutz. The then-17-year-old traveled with his AR-15 on August 25, 2020, to protect a Kenosha car dealership, he said, from protesters who took to the street after local police shot and paralyzed an unarmed Black man a few days before.
Two of the charges initially viewed as the most likely for the prosecution to get a guilty verdict—the firearms charge and the charge related to him breaking curfew—were both tossed by Schroeder earlier in the trial. Experts have written that thanks to the nebulous self-defense laws in the United States, there’s a significant chance Rittenhouse walks.
The trial was a tense battle between the prosecution and defense lawyers for over two weeks. Hours upon hours were spent questioning the almost two dozen witnesses called to the stand. The trial had its moments of high drama, specifically when Rittenhouse was called to the stand and broke down. Judge Schroeder also fiercely clashed with the prosecution and drew attention for some of his unconventional court behavior, such as asking the jury to applaud a witness who was a military veteran.
Both the prosecution and defense lawyers presented their closing arguments on Monday. Thomas Binger and James Kraus, the district attorneys for Kenosha, gave lengthy speeches in which they painted Rittenhouse as an uncaring “chaos tourist” who killed without remorse. They attempted to sway the jury that the evidence showed Rittenhouse instigated the bloodshed by pointing his rifle at people and sparking Rosenbaum to chase him.
Rittenhouse's defense lawyer, Mark Richards, gave a fiery closing argument in which he argued Rittenhouse was a well-meaning young man forced to kill in self-defense after being attacked by “rioters.” Richards took particular aim at the victims and witnesses, many of whom he attempted to discredit.
“There was no threatening behavior that started this,” said Richards. “Mr. Rosenbaum was hell-bent on causing trouble that night, he did what he did and he started this. There are tragic parts of it but Kyle Rittenhouse was protected under the law of the state of Wisconsin, the law of self-defense.”
While the events leading up to the killings were a focal point in the case, there’s no dispute that Rittenhouse killed two men and shot another in the arm during that chaotic night in Kenosha.
The jury heard testimony and saw a number of videos showing how Rittenhouse shot and killed Rosenbaum, who was unarmed. After killing Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse fled the scene and claimed he was headed toward police but was confronted by a group of people. Rittenhouse fell, and while on the ground, he shot at an unidentified man trying to kick him, shot and killed Huber, who had hit him with a skateboard, and also shot and injured Grosskreutz, who’d approached him with a handgun. (Grosskreutz testified he thought Rittenhouse was an active shooter.)
Which version of the teenager, and the night in question, is closer to the truth is up to the jury to decide now. The Wisconsin governor called in 500 National Guard troops to be put on standby in Kenosha in case of civil unrest.
It’s hard to overstate how polarizing this trial has been. On the left, Rittenhouse is seen as a vigilante out looking for blood that evening and a representation of U.S. gun culture run amok. On the right, he’s viewed as a teenager forced into a position where he had to draw blood in self-defense and was unfairly charged by a “woke” prosecution. In some far-right corners, Rittenhouse is actively treated as a hero.
The dismissed jurors will remain as backups and will be staying at the courthouse and Schroeder apologized for not being able to organize daytime TV for them to watch as they wait. It’s unknown how long the jury will take to deliberate over the charges.
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