Kyle Rittenhouse trial: Was decision to take the stand the right one?
Attorney Jonathan Turley breaks down the heated first day of the teen’s murder trial.
Defense attorneys representing Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused of fatally shooting two men and wounding a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin, rested its case on Thursday in the divisive murder trial, setting the stage for closing arguments early next week.
The jury is expected to begin deliberating as early as Monday over Rittenhouse’s fate related to the Aug. 25, 2020, shootings during fiery unrest in Kenosha. Rittenhouse’s lawyers wrapped their side of the case during the ninth day of trial – just one day after their client took the stand for hours of testimony.
On Wednesday, Rittenhouse told the jury he was defending himself from attack and had no choice when he used his rifle to kill two men and wound a third on the streets of Kenosha in the summer of 2020.
Kyle Rittenhouse testifies during cross examination in his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and wounding a third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha, last year. (Mark Hertzberg /Pool Photo via AP)
(Mark Hertzberg /Pool Photo via AP)
Prosecutors have sought to portray Rittenhouse as the instigator of the bloodshed, which took place during a tumultuous night of protests against racial injustice. Rittenhouse’s attorneys, meanwhile, have repeatedly argued that their client was acting in self-defense.
Rittenhouse was 17 when he and at least one friend said they traveled to the Wisconsin city from Illinois to protect local businesses and provide medical aid after two nights of businesses being looted and set on fire.
He is charged with two counts of homicide, one count of attempted homicide, recklessly endangering safety and illegal possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.
He faces up to life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.
The defense put witnesses on the stand across two and a half days.
The jury was excused late afternoon on Thursday with instructions to return to court on Monday. The defense and prosecution will be present in court on Friday to handle matters related to jury instructions.
Judge Bruce Schroeder has allotted each side two-and-a-half hours to present its closing argument to the panel of jurors – 10 women and eight men.
After closing arguments, names will be drawn to decide which 12 members of the jury panel will deliberate and which ones will be dismissed as alternates.
John Black, use-of-force expert, testifies during Kyle Rittenhouse’s trail at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and wounding a third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha, last year. (Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)
(Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)
One of the final witnesses for the defense was a use-of-force expert, Dr. John Black, who testified that less than three seconds elapsed between the time a protester fired a shot in the air and Rittenhouse opened fire with his rifle.
Black took the stand as part of an effort by Rittenhouse’s lawyers to show that he had reason to fear for his life and acted in self-defense.
The defense has suggested to the jury that the relevant timeframe for determining whether Rittenhouse’s use of force was reasonable consists of just a few minutes around the shootings.
Black said it took 2 minutes, 55 seconds, from the time the first man who was shot that night, Joseph Rosenbaum, chased Rittenhouse across a car lot to the time Rittenhouse approached police, after the shootings.
Defense attorneys Mark Richards and Corey Chirafisi, listen as defense witness Frank Hernandez is cross examined during Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial about the video he took on the night of Aug. 25, 2020, at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. (Mark Hertzberg/Pool Photo via AP)
(Mark Hertzberg/Pool Photo via AP)
Prosecutors, for their part, have stressed a much longer window, saying the tragic chain of events occurred over hours, starting with Rittenhouse’s fateful decision to go to a volatile protest with a rifle.
The defense also called Frank “Drew” Hernandez, a self-proclaimed “professional commentator” for Real America’s Voice, who was capturing video footage on the night of the shooting, including the moments leading up to the shootings.
Hernandez testified that he saw Rittenhouse’s interaction with rioters and his effort to de-escalate their actions at times on Aug. 25, 2020. He described how “rioters” were throwing rocks, including at police, and launching fireworks.
“When the rioters were being dispersed further down Sheridan towards the Car Source dealership, down the street,” he recalled, “the rioters were grabbing concrete slabs there, throwing them on the floor to create more rocks and to throw them at police officers, they were launching fireworks and other explosives.”
Frank Hernandez testifies during Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial about the video he took on the night of Aug. 25, 2020, at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and wounding a third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha, last year. (Mark Hertzberg/Pool Photo via AP)
(Mark Hertzberg/Pool Photo via AP)
Hernandez added during his testimony that the “rioters initiated that conflict” with the individuals who had “long-arm rifles.”
“The rioters identified individuals with long-arm rifles on top of the building, and they immediately attempted to agitate them to try and start some conflict with them, saying, ‘You ain’t the police, you ain’t the police,’” Hernandez explained.
Hernandez later added that Rittenhouse “clearly attempts to de-escalate the situation, and he actually is successful because the rioters then disperse.”
But the prosecution spent much of its cross-examination questioning Hernandez’s alleged bias toward Rittenhouse.
At one point, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger questioned Hernandez about his social media posts in which he calls Rittenhouse by his first name, but calls Joseph Rosenbaum, one of the three men shot by Rittenhouse, by his last name or “Mr. Rosenbaum.”
Binger further asked Hernandez about a tweet from the night of Aug. 25, 2020, in which he writes about an “armed citizen” whom he had seen shooting a “rioter.”
“It appears an armed citizen was defending the car dealership and opened fire on the rioter who was attempting to vandalize or burn the dealership down,” the tweet states, in part.
After reading the tweet aloud, Binger asks: “By the time you had made a conclusion in your own mind that what they defendant did was the right thing?”
Judge Bruce E. Schroeder rebukes Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger during the Kyle Rittenhouse trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse on November 10, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mark Hertzberg-Pool/Getty Images)
((Photo by Mark Hertzberg-Pool/Getty Images))
Thursday’s trial proceedings were less eventful than the day before, when Rittenhouse’s defense team filed a motion for a mistrial with prejudice, after a series of missteps by the prosecution, including related to the constitutionality of some of the questions asked by Binger.
If the motion for a mistrial with prejudice is granted, the state would be barred from retrying the case against Rittenhouse.
Schroeder, though clearly mad at the prosecutor to the point of raising his voice at times, did not immediately rule on the request, and pressed on with the case.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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