Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, was found not guilty on Friday of murder and attempted murder amid spiraling protests, civil unrest and destruction in the aftermath of the 2020 police shooting of Jacob Blake. There was no dispute that Rittenhouse opened fire on Aug. 25, 2020, but his lawyers argued all along that he killed two men and wounded a third in self-defense.
The jury returned Friday morning to continue deliberations for the fourth day. Jurors appear to have spent more than 24 hours in total time to reach their verdict.
Rittenhouse collapsed as the verdict was read. He was found not guilty on all counts.
Rittenhouse was ostensibly in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that fateful night to protect private property. His defense maintained that he was just protecting himself when the “irrational and crazy” and threatening Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, ambushed Rittenhouse. He fled the scene to find police, but members of the crowd, who did not understand what really happened, attacked Rittenhouse, attorney Mark Richards told jurors. Again acting in self-defense, Rittenhouse, then 17, fatally shot Anthony Huber, 26, who was hitting him with a skateboard, the lawyer said. Rittenhouse then wounded paramedic Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, who the defense maintained lied to investigators and was motivated to tell falsehoods to benefit his lawsuit over the incident. Grosskreutz omitted telling police that he himself was armed with a Glock.
Rittenhouse testified at trial that the “person that attacked me first threatened to kill me twice.”
“The first time was me and Ryan Balch were at 59th and Sheridan,” he said. “Rosenbaum was walking with a chain and blue mask.”
“If I catch any of you fuckers alone, I’m going to fucking kill you,” Rosenbaum said, according to Rittenhouse.
“I’m going to cut your fucking hearts out — and, I’m not going to repeat the second word — and kill you, N-words,” Rosenbaum said a second time, outside a Car Source lot, again according to Rittenhouse’s testimony.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Rittenhouse said. “I defended myself.”
Rittenhouse said he tried to reach the police but that members of the crowd started to chase after him. One of those people was Anthony Huber, and he had a skateboard.
“The next thing I remember is Anthony Huber striking me on the head with a skateboard,” Rittenhouse testified. “What I remember is running past Anthony Huber, and as I’m running past Mr. Huber, he’s holding a skateboard like a baseball bat, and he swings it down, and I block it with my arm, trying to prevent it from hitting me, but it still hits me in the neck, and as I block it, it goes flying somewhere off in the distance.”
“I keep running down Sheridan Road to the police line,” he added. “He strikes me in the neck with his skateboard a second time.”
“He grabs my gun, and I can feel it pulling away from me. I can feel the strap starting to come off my body. I fired one shot,” Rittenhouse said.
The defense depicted Grosskreutz as self-serving, pointing out contradictions to what he said on the stand and what he told investigators shortly after the shooting. For example, Grosskreutz told an officer that his gun fell off his waist. Grosskreutz denied on the stand that this was a lie.
“You didn’t drop your firearm,” Rittenhouse lawyer Corey Chirafisi said. “You were chasing Mr. Rittenhouse with your gun.”
Chirafisi was the lawyer Rittenhouse embraced as the not guilty verdict was read.
Rittenhouse testified that he shot Grosskreutz because he was armed and aiming his pistol at him.
During redirect, Grosskreutz said his hand was not positioned to shoot. He denied ever intentionally pointing his gun at Rittenhouse.
Prosecutors said Rittenhouse acted callously, running off instead of caring for the dying Rosenbaum. Rittenhouse lied when previously telling people in the area that he was a “certified EMT,” Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger said. The rest of the crowd, including Huber and Grosskreutz, bravely confronted Rittenhouse, believing he was an active shooter, according to the prosecution.
“He’s a chaos tourist,” Assistant District Attorney James Kraus said of Rittenhouse, an Illinois resident who has said he was in the area for lifeguard work. He painted the 18-year-old as being on the streets that night out of a sense of self-aggrandizement. The prosecutor sarcastically remarked that the young man was trying to do the job of a police officer, firefighter, and medic.
“He didn’t want to go back to the Car Source,” Kraus said. “He wanted to see what was going on. He wanted to stay in the action. He wanted to continue to do things that would make him feel big and make him feel important.”
Both sides argued over how to interpret Rosenbaum’s fatal gunshot wound to the back. The prosecution maintained that Rosenbaum was falling over when he sustained that wound. The defense said Rosenbaum’s position, with the bullet landing in his hip, was consistent with lunging.
In a remarkably personal series of attacks, defense lawyer Mark Richards called Binger a liar who downplayed Rosenbaum’s belligerent behavior and misrepresented Rittenhouse’s actions.
“So what does he do that night? Oh, let me tell you all of the awful things Joseph Rosenbaum that night: He tipped over a porta-potty that had no one in it; he swung a chain; he lit a metal garbage system—dumpster—on fire. Oh, and there’s this empty wooden flatbed trailer that they pulled out in the middle of the road and they tipped it over to stop some bearcats and they lit it on fire,” Binger dismissively said during closing arguments.
“Oh, and he some bad words. He said the N-word,” Binger continued, tsk-tsking Rosenbaum’s use of the N-word.
In his rebuttal, Kraus told jurors that Rittenhouse should have found another way to defend himself instead of shooting Rosenbaum.
“Hit him,” he said. “Kick him. Knee him. Anything else.”
[Screenshot via Law&Crime Network]
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