EXPLAINER: Prosecutors play up Rittenhouse inexperience

MADISON (WIS.) Kyle Rittenhouse was convicted of murder by his lawyers. They have tried to portray him as an inexperienced teenager who misrepresented both his age and his medical training to other armed civilians in the group he was in on the night he killed three people in protest against police brutality in Wisconsin last January.
Witnesses, including two veterans of the military, have provided testimony to Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger during Rittenhouse's first week. They said that Rittenhouse appeared inexperienced and falsely claimed that the teen from Illinois was old enough for a gun. Also, that he was a certified medical professional when he really was just a lifeguard.

Phil Turner, an ex-federal prosecutor in Chicago and an attorney in Chicago, is not involved in the case. He said that Binger was trying to prove that Rittenhouse did not know what he was doing, and that jurors shouldn't believe Rittenhouse's self-defense claims.

Turner stated that Turner wanted to show Turner how he responded to the protest. Turner explained that Turner is young and has not had to experience it. He would perceive the protest as more dangerous than an older person and be more likely (to see it) in this context. It's possible for a younger man to believe that this man is going to harm me.

Rittenhouse brought a semiautomatic rifle to the August 2020 protest in Kenosha. After Jacob Blake, a Black man who had been resisting arrest in a domestic dispute, was shot by a white officer at the Wisconsin-Illinois border, the city was in chaos for several nights. Rittenhouse, who was 17 years old at that time, said he went to Kenosha to defend downtown businesses from looters.

He shot Joseph Rosenbaum just before midnight. Rosenbaum had chased Rosenbaum into a parking garage. A bystander video shows Rittenhouse being chased down the street. Unidentified man attempted to kick Rittenhouse in the head. Anthony Huber struck him in his head with a skateboard, and Gaige Grosskreutz fired a gun at him. Rittenhouse shot at the man who kicked him, but missed, and shot and killed Huber. Grosskreutz was also wounded in the arm.

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Rittenhouse was charged by the prosecution with multiple charges, including murder and minor in possession of firearms. Rittenhouse argued that he killed the men in self defense. His attorneys will need to convince jurors that Rittenhouse reasonably believed that his life was in imminent danger and that the force he used was reasonable. Binger claims Rittenhouse was the aggressor, and that he overreacted.

Ryan Balch, a former soldier in the U.S. Army who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, testified Thursday that he was armed with a semiautomatic rifle and a pistol to protect businesses and that he met Rittenhouse at Kenosha.

Later, Balch told FBI investigators Rittenhouse was very interested in Balch and his military deployments. Balch claimed Rittenhouse informed him that he was 19 years old and was a certified emergency medicine technician. He was in fact a lifeguard at Pleasant Prairie's recreational complex, which is located between Kenosha, Illinois, and Rittenhouses hometown, Antioch, Illinois.

Balch stated that he seemed to be a young, impressionable child. Balch said that Rittenhouse seemed under-equipped and inexperienced. We kind of stayed with them.

Balch claimed that he watched Rittenhouse all evening, keeping him safe as Rittenhouse ran around shouting that Rittenhouse was a doctor and could help anyone injured. Balch recalled a protestor insulting Rittenhouse using profanity. Rittenhouse responded by saying, "I love you too ma'am!" Balch stated that he didn't want to get involved because it would only anger the crowd.

Balch testified that I said to him, "hey, don’t say that." If they feel that you are making fun of them, it can lead to an escalated situation. It was unnecessary.

Jason Lackowski, a former Marine, testified Friday that he was also armed with a semiautomatic rifle and a knife in order to protect businesses.

He stated that Rittenhouse introduced him and claimed he was an emergency medicine technician. Rittenhouse did not say how old he is, but Lackowski testified that Rittenhouse thought he was at least 18, as minors cannot possess firearms in Wisconsin. He also believed Rittenhouse had to have been 18 to obtain an EMT license.

He testified that Rosenbaum was "acting belligerently", tried to get into fights with Lackowski's groups, and asked for members to shoot him. However, he said that Rosenbaum was not a threat to himself or anyone else.

Richie McGinniss was a videographer at The Daily Caller. He testified that he met Rittenhouse during the protest and asked him his age.

McGinniss stated that he believed the reply was "I am an adult." The night of the incident, I told police that I believed he was in his 20s. However, I do believe that I stated exactly what I said.

Rittenhouse's lawyers resisted any suggestion that Rittenhouse reacted too strongly to a non-threat. They pointed out that Lackowski met Rosenbaum in a group setting, and that he had never confronted Rosenbaum one-on-1 like Rittenhouse. When defense attorney Corey Chirafisi questioned Lackowski if he felt threatened if Rosenbaum tried to take his gun and charged him at full speed, Lackowski replied, "Yes."

Rittenhouse's team did not challenge Rittenhouse's testimony that Rittenhouse had lied to his age and medical certification, and that he appeared inexperienced.

Turner, the Chicago attorney said that the defense might be content to allow jurors to believe Rittenhouse is essentially a child.

I would happily defend this case if it was true. Turner stated that Turner is young and inexperienced, and this relates to your intent to murder because you see a situation to be dangerous. His youth actually benefits him. If the older person isn't convinced, they will think that this guy knows better.


This report was contributed by Amy Forliti, an Associated Press reporter in Minneapolis.


Find APs full coverage on the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse at: https://apnews.com/hub/kyle-rittenhouse