KENOSHA, Wis. — Prosecutors and defense attorneys delivered closing arguments Monday in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who shot three people, killing two, during civil unrest last year in Kenosha.
Attorneys for Rittenhouse, who was 17 during the Aug. 25, 2020 shootings, have argued that he shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and shot and injured Gaige Grosskreutz, now 28, in self-defense. Prosecutors have sought to portray Rittenhouse as a vigilante who provoked the events leading to the shootings.
Update 7:25 p.m. EST Nov. 15: In the state’s rebuttal, Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney James Kraus argued that Rittenhouse’s use of deadly force in response to perceived threats was unreasonable.
“It certainly cannot be reasonable for someone to be holding an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle with powerful ammunition and be chased by someone who is unarmed who’s smaller than him, who’s shorter than him and the first thing you do to defend yourself is you plug four rounds into him,” Kraus told the jury.
Kraus also argued that Wisconsin law on the use of deadly force is clear, and Rittenhouse’s circumstances did not meet those standards, noting that the defendant should have “exhausted all methods” of self-defense before firing his weapon.
“You don’t just immediately get to shoot someone ... It is not reasonable for any adult ... to not try and defend yourself first using other methods,” Kraus said, adding, “Punch him in the face, kick him in the testicles, knee him in the face, hit him with your gun.”
The prosecutor then reiterated that Rittenhouse’s actions were not reasonable by any measure of the law.
“The only imminent threat that night was Mr. Rittenhouse. He was not acting in legal, justified self-defense. He is guilty,” Kraus said, noting “It is not up for Mr. Rittenhouse to be the judge, the jury, and eventually the executioner.”
Update 7:12 p.m. EST Nov. 15: Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney James Kraus concluded the state’s rebuttal just before 7 p.m. Monday. A full recounting of the rebuttal will be available shortly.
Meanwhile, jury deliberation are slated to begin Tuesday morning, and Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder told jurors that it is their responsibility to “determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty as to each of the offenses charged or submitted.”
“You will disregard the claims or opinions of any other person or news media or social networking site. You will pay no heed to the opinions of anyone — even the President of the United States or the President before him,” Schroeder told the jury before dismissing them for the day.
A random drawing will whittle the 18-member panel of eight men and 10 women to 12 people before deliberations begin.
Jurors were instructed to report back to court at 10 a.m. EST.
Update 6:05 p.m. EST Nov. 15: Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney James Kraus launched the state’s rebuttal following a 10-minute recess.
Update 5:40 p.m. EST Nov. 15: Defense attorney Mark Richards ended his closing statement Monday afternoon rejecting arguments from prosecutor Thomas Binger that Rittenhouse provoked the violence on Aug. 25, 2020.
“There was no threatening behavior (from Rittenhouse) that started this,” Richards said. “Mr. Rosenbaum was hell-bent on starting trouble that night. He did what he did, and he started this. There are … tragic parts of it, but Kyle Rittenhouse’s behavior was protected under the law of the state of Wisconsin, the law of self-defense.”
He accused Binger of “lying” and “misrepresenting” the evidence.
“Mr. Rosenbaum was shot because he was chasing my client, because he was going to kill him, take his gun and carry out the threats he made,” Richards said. Last week, Rittenhouse testified that he heard Rosenbaum make threats which he thought were directed at him prior to the shooting.
“Kyle shot Joseph Rosenbaum to stop a threat to his person, and 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,” Richards said. “He was irrational and crazy.”
He accused Binger of calling Rittenhouse an “active shooter” because of the connotation of the term, which he said, “excuses the actions of a mob.”
“The definition of an active shooter is someone with a plan to inflect multiple casualties, usually out of animus or anger at a group,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, Kyle was not an active shooter.”
He highlighted that Huber struck Rittenhouse with his skateboard and that he was trying to get Rittenhouse’s gun before the teenager shot and killed him.
“What you were seeing was individuals acting as a mob — they are going to get their licks in on Kyle Rittenhouse, or, as they see it, someone from the other side,” Richards said.
He argued that Grosskreutz should have retreated when he encountered Rittenhouse, who testified that he was on his way to turn himself in to police at the time of the confrontation. Richards suggested that Grosskreutz, who worked as an EMT and a paramedic, should have tended to the wounds Rittenhouse had inflicted on Rosenbaum.
“Instead, he joins the mob chasing Kyle, arms himself and runs in,” Richards said. “Mr. Grosskreutz decides he’s going to shoot my client. Unfortunately, my client shot him first. If he retreated, it’s over.”
He argued that people were rioting on Aug. 25, 2020, pointing to video which he said shows “people destroying someone else’s property.”
“During the video, you look at the one wall. There’s nothing there. You can see somebody spray painting on it. They have written the word ‘loot’ on it,” he said. “You see another individual going in the hood of the car. Trying to do something. It’s not his car. He’s not some roadside mechanic. They’re destroying property.”
Update 3:32 p.m. EST Nov. 15: Rittenhouse’s attorney, Mark Richards, has begun closing arguments on behalf of the defense.
Update 3:10 p.m. EST Nov. 15: Prosecutor Thomas Binger concluded his closing arguments Monday afternoon, telling jurors that the crowd that confronted Rittenhouse after he shot and killed Rosenbaum on Aug. 25, 2020, believed him to be an active shooter.
“The crowd has the right to try and stop an active shooter,” he said. “They have a right to protect themselves. The defendant is not the only one in the world who has the right to self-defense.”
During his closing statements, Binger showed video of Rittenhouse shooting and killing Huber, who had twice hit him with a skateboard, and shooting and injuring Grosskreutz. The prosecutor said Rittenhouse, who lived in Illinois but had family and friends in Kenosha, was one of the “chaos tourists” that Kenosha saw after the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
“You cannot hide behind self-defense if you provoked the incident,” Binger said. “If you created the danger, you forfeit the right to self-defense. By bringing that gun, aiming it at people, threatening people’s lives, the defendant provoked everything.”
Binger argued that Grosskreutz never willingly pointed his gun at Rittenhouse. Instead, he said the gun was pointed at Rittenhouse after the teenager shot Grosskreutz in the arm, severing his bicep.
“That right arm is probably dangling down towards the defendant,” Binger said. “It’s not going to be able to pull that trigger without a working bicep muscle and it is not a voluntary thing. It is done because the defendant just blew his arm off.”
Grosskreutz last week testified that he never intentionally pointed his gun at Rittenhouse, though he acknowledged that the gun did point toward the teen as he was being shot.
The trial is expected to resume around 3:25 p.m. EST with closing arguments from the defense.
Update 1:55 p.m. EST Nov. 15: Prosecutor Thomas Binger resumed delivering his closing statements following a lunch break Monday afternoon.
Update 1 p.m. EST Nov. 15: Trial proceedings are paused to allow jurors to take a lunch break. Prosecutors are set to resume their closing arguments at 12:45 p.m. CST.
Prosecutor Thomas Binger asked jurors to consider what motivated Rittenhouse to be on the streets of Kenosha on the night of the deadly shootings. He highlighted that Rittenhouse was out during a citywide curfew -- prompting an objection from a defense attorney who noted that his client was no longer facing a curfew charge -- and that he lied during the night about being an EMT.
“Was he genuinely interested in helping people?” Binger asked.
He showed video of the encounter between Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum, saying the video showed Rittenhouse provoked the situation. If the jury agrees, the determination would nullify Rittenhouse’s claim of self-defense.
“What you see in that video is his left arm reaching for the gun holding it up,” Binger said. “That is what provokes this entire incident. ... You cannot claim self-defense against a danger you create.”
Update 12:30 p.m. EST Nov. 15: Prosecutor Thomas Binger began delivering his closing arguments around 11:20 a.m. CST.
“The defendant came from outside our community carrying a gun that wasn’t his because he expected and anticipated violence that night, and he pretended to guard what turned out to be an empty building owned by people he’d never even met while fraudulently claiming all night long to be an EMT,” Binger said.
The prosecutor said he planned to first focus on the deadly shootings on the night of Aug. 25, 2020, before addressing background issues and arguments he deemed to be irrelevant. He said he would close his statement Monday by going over the jury instructions.
Binger and defense attorneys have as many as 2 1/2 hours each to deliver their closing arguments, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Original report: Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder on Monday morning instructed the jury about the charges to consider against Rittenhouse, a process expected to take at least 45 minutes, according to the Chicago Tribune. Afterward, defense attorneys and prosecutors will get as many as 2 1/2 hours each to issue their closing remarks Monday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
On Monday, Schroeder dismissed a charge of possession of a dangerous weapon against Rittenhouse. Last week, the judge also dismissed a curfew violation charge, saying that prosecutors had failed to present evidence to support it.
Rittenhouse, a former police explorer and firefighter emergency medical technician cadet, last week testified that he traveled from his nearby home in Illinois to Kenosha, where he has family and friends, in August 2020. He said he went downtown on the night of Aug. 25 to help protect a car dealership his friend had worked at and to provide first aid to anyone in need. At the time, he was armed with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle bought for him by a friend because he was underage.
He said he shot Rosenbaum after hearing the older man make threatening comments which he thought were directed at him earlier in the night. On the stand Wednesday, he testified that he opened fire after Rosenbaum chased him. He added that felt Rosenbaum’s hand on the barrel of his gun before he fired.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Rittenhouse said Wednesday. “I defended myself.”
He said he shot and killed Huber after the 26-year-old struck him twice with a skateboard as he was surrounded by a rowdy crowd following his shooting of Rosenbaum. He said he shot Huber once after feeling him try to take his gun, which he wore strapped around his body.
He testified that he also shot at another man, who has not been identified, after the man jumped at him and kicked him in the face. He said he subsequently shot and injured Grosskreutz after the then-27-year-old lunged at him with a pistol pointed at his head.
“I intended to stop the people who were attacking me,” he said Wednesday. “I didn’t know if it was going to kill them, but I used deadly force to stop the threat that was attacking me.”
The polarizing case exposed bitter divisions nationwide over guns, protests and policing, The Associated Press reported. The trial, which began Nov. 1, included testimony from about 30 witnesses over eight days and featured more than a dozen videos from the night of the shootings, according to the Journal Sentinel.
Last week, Gov. Tony Evers activated 500 Wisconsin Army National Guard troops to assist authorities in Kenosha ahead of an expected verdict in the case.
The August 2020 shootings happened as protesters took to the streets of Kenosha after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot by a police officer days earlier during a domestic disturbance call.
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