EXPLAINER: Rittenhouse attorneys spar over victim depictions

MADISON (Wis.) Attorneys spent the first week in Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial arguing about who provoked whom. Prosecutors portrayed the Illinois teenager as aggressor, while defense attorneys tried to prove that the men he shot had threatened Rittenhouse.
Jurors will decide whether Rittenhouse acted in self-defense when Rittenhouse felt threatened. Or whether he reacted too quickly.

The defense must establish self-defense by proving that Rittenhouse was being interfered with and Rittenhouse believed that this could lead to great bodily injury. Former Milwaukee County prosecutor Daniel Adams is not involved in the case.

Rittenhouse brought along a semi-automatic gun to protest against police brutality in Kenosha, August 2020. After Jacob Blake, a Black man was resisting arrest in a domestic dispute, a white officer shot him. The incident sparked chaos throughout the city. Rittenhouse was just 17 years old at the time. He claimed he was protecting downtown businesses from vandals and looters. Rittenhouse was charged with attempted homicide and homicide as well as minor possession of dangerous weapons.

He shot Rosenbaum and killed him just before midnight. Rosenbaum was following him across a parking garage. Rittenhouse ran from the scene, but someone tried to kick him in his face. Anthony Huber then swung his skating board at Rittenhouse, hitting him head-on. Huber was fatally shot by Rittenhouse. Gaige Grosskreutz, holding a gun, ran up to Huber just a moment later. Rittenhouse shot him in his arm, but Grosskreutz survived.

Rittenhouse claims he used self-defense in each of these instances. The jury will decide whether Rittenhouse had reasonable grounds to believe he was in danger, and whether the force used was reasonable.

Adams stated that defense attorney Mark Richards must make jurors believe Rittenhouse was scared.

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The defense received some assistance from Judge Bruce Schroeder earlier this year. He prohibited anyone from referring Rosenbaum, Huber, or Grosskreutz to victims. This was because the term implies that the defendant committed a crime before any evidence has been proved. Rittenhouse was given another boost by the judge, who ruled last month that attorneys can refer to the men in the following terms: rioters looters and arsonists, if they have evidence supporting those labels.

Opening statements were held on Tuesday by Richards, who claimed that Huber "intentionally separated (Rittenhouses's) body from the head" and hit him with a skateboard. He then tried to take his gun away.

Richards has also tried to convince the jury that Rosenbaum was a threat. A police detective testified that Rosenbaum had, at different times, armed himself with a stolen chain from a construction site and set a dumpster on fire. He was also walking around in his shirt disguised as a mask.

Ryan Balch, a former military veteran, testified that Rosenbaum was aggressive, had thrown stones at his group, and threatened to kill anyone he saw alone that night. Jason Lackowski, a former veteran who was armed on the streets, said Rosenbaum was a babbling idiot and didn't consider him a threat.

Images from FBI surveillance plane footage show Richards highlighting Rosenbaum's movements behind a vehicle, emerging as Rittenhouse ran by, and following him down just moments before Rittenhouse shot Rittenhouse.

According to the defense attorney, Rosenbaum was seen getting out of a car to meet Rittenhouse just before the shooting.

Richards replied: Mr. Rosenbaum is hiding while my client arrives.

Howard confirmed that it appears to be true.

Richard McGinniss was a video journalist at The Daily Caller, and was recording the events that night. He testified that Rosenbaum pursued Rittenhouse down, and lunged for Rittenhouse’s rifle.

Richards also mentioned in his opening statement, Grosskreutz had a handgun with him when he approached Rittenhouse.

Adams stated that Adams is trying to put Rittenhouse in Rittenhouse's shoes and show them that terror, fear, and dread are real. He doesn't know the intentions of others when he's being attacked by them. He thinks he will have his gun taken away and used against him.

Thomas Binger, Assistant District Attorney, has resisted and repeatedly stressed that Rosenbaum was not armed at the time he was killed. He also claimed that Rittenhouse provoked Rosenbaum in a confrontation that took place earlier that evening. Rittenhouse chased Rosenbaum with a fire extinguisher, before Rosenbaum changed the subject.

Balch was forced to admit on the stand that Rosenbaum never struck anyone or carried a weapon. Binger also questioned McGinniss about Rosenbaum's description of him lunging towards Rittenhouse. This raised the possibility that Rosenbaum was actually falling towards Rittenhouse as McGinniss stated in a televised interview following the shootings.

Binger has also argued that Huber, Grosskreutz and others were trying to disarm Rittenhouse in order to protect other people. He claims that Grosskreutz raised both his hands in a universal surrender gesture before he was killed. Richards claims that he dropped his hands before he raised his gun.

Prosecutors hoped to make Huber's heroic actions in questioning Susan Hughes, his great-aunt. Susan Hughes also testified that Huber knew Jacob Blake. Schroeder said that such testimony would allow the defense to tell jurors that Huber spent time in prison in 2012 for a family dispute, in which he threatened and choked his brother.

In addition, the prosecutor claims that Rittenhouse was the only person who died in the chaos of the night. Dominick Black, Rittenhouse's friend and also armed with a rifle for business protection, testified that while people had thrown stones at him, he didn’t feel that his life was in peril.

Black said that pain is a part of life, but not death. It wasn't going kill me, I knew that.

You felt that it wasn't enough for you to use deadly force? Binger stated.

Black was correct.


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