After more than 30 witnesses testified in the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial, the case that has grabbed the nation’s attention is moving into its final stages.
Testimony, which spanned more than a week, wrapped up on Thursday — and closing arguments are slated to begin Monday.
Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to six charges– including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and first-degree attempted intentional homicide for shooting at four people during the August 2020 chaotic protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Two of the people Rittenhouse shot died and one was wounded.
The events of the night of August 25, 2020, almost all captured on video, are hardly in dispute. The question before the jury is whether Rittenhouse’s actions were reasonable.
Here are some key moments from the courtroom.
In an emotional testimony Wednesday, Rittenhouse said he acted in self-defense when he fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum, who had thrown a plastic bag at him and chased him.
During cross-examination, he indicated he knew Rosenbaum was unarmed when he ran toward him, saying he pointed the gun at Rosenbaum to deter him. Rittenhouse, 18, noted he was aware pointing a rifle at someone is dangerous.
“He was chasing me, I was alone, he threatened to kill me earlier that night. I didn’t want to have to shoot him,” Rittenhouse testified. “I pointed it at him because he kept running at me, and I didn’t want him to chase me.”
Rittenhouse said he feared Rosenbaum, who did not touch him, would take his gun and kill people.
The testimony was crucial to both prosecution and defense arguments about his actions on that night. The prosecution is trying to show that Rittenhouse’s actions were reckless and criminal, while the defense said he acted in self-defense.
Rittenhouse’s intense testimony was interrupted by tears and several heated exchanges between the judge and prosecutor. Judge Bruce Schroeder twice admonished Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger for his line of questioning.
Schroeder requested that the jury leave the courtroom to address Binger’s line of questioning.
The first incident was about Binger’s questions about Rittenhouse’s post-arrest silence, a right solidified in the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution.
“The problem is this is a grave constitutional violation for you to talk about the defendant’s silence,” Schroeder said. “You’re right on the borderline, and you may be over, but it better stop.”
The second rebuke touched on questions related to an incident two weeks before the shootings that Schroeder had ruled would not be permitted to come into evidence.
Binger said he believed that incident was newly relevant to the case, but Schroeder criticized him for not asking permission first and affirmed the evidence would not be allowed.
“I thought your ruling was if the evidence in this case made that more relevant, you would admit it or at least considered its admittance,” Binger said, adding that he may have misunderstood that.
Schroeder responded to Binger with a piercing tone.
“Don’t get brazen with me,” Schroeder told Binger. “You know very well that an attorney can’t go into these types of areas when the judge has already ruled without asking outside the presence of the jury to do so, so don’t give me that.”
Judge is known for being tough
It is no secret that Schroeder, 75, is a tough jurist.
And some can argue that’s what it takes for him to be the longest-serving active judge in Wisconsin’s trial courts. He has gained the reputation of a judge who’s not afraid to make difficult decisions, no matter the reaction– and that was clearly demonstrated in his conversations with the prosecutor.
He made headlines last month when he maintained that the people Rittenhouse shot may not be described as “victims” but OK’d terminology such as “rioters” or “looters” if the prosecutors those people carried out those crimes.
“Let the evidence show what the evidence shows, that any or one of these people were engaged in arson, rioting or looting, then I’m not going to tell the defense they can’t call them that,” Schroeder said during the pretrial hearing.
His decision immediately sparked debate and, in some cases, outrage in legal circles.
“He has a reputation for doing what he believes is the right thing and being an independent thinker,” said William Lynch, a retired attorney who served on the board of the ACLU of Wisconsin at the time of Schroeder’s ruling about ordering AIDS tests for sex workers in the 1980s.
Lone shootings survivor thought Rittenhouse was an active shooter
Gaige Grosskreutz, the only one of the three men shot by Rittenhouse who survived, said he was at the protests helping provide people with medical care. He added that he packed his own medical supplies, including a tourniquet and gauze. He also took his handgun, as he routinely did at other demonstrations, he said.
Grosskreutz, 27, told the court he first encountered Rittenhouse when “the defendant had been essentially offering medical aid” to people at the protest.
Later, Grosskreutz said he heard the gunshots and heard people yelling for a medic, so he ran in the direction of the shooting.
He stopped and turned around when moments later Rittenhouse passed him on the street, Grosskreutz said, adding that as Rittenhouse passed him, he thought he heard him say, “I’m working with the police and didn’t do anything.”
Grosskreutz said after hearing people yelling that Rittenhouse had just shot someone, he soon believed the teen to be an active shooter.
“More people were pointing out the defendant, saying he had just shot somebody, that he’s trying to get away,” Grosskreutz said.
“Further inferencing from the things I had heard, experienced and witnessed earlier in the night, I thought the defendant was an active shooter,” Grosskreutz told the jurors.
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