Jurors began deliberations Tuesday in Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial, a day after the prosecution and defense offered dueling assessments of his actions last year during unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
A group of 18 jurors was in court for the entirety of the trial but six were dismissed by a random drawing on Tuesday morning. The final 12-person jury panel is made up of five men and seven women, according to a pool reporter in court.
In closing arguments Monday, the prosecution argued Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, provoked the fatal shootings by pointing his AR-15-style weapon at Joseph Rosenbaum, setting off a series of events that left two people dead and one wounded.
“That is what provokes this entire incident,” prosecutor Thomas Binger said. “When the defendant provokes this incident, he loses the right to self-defense. You cannot claim self-defense against a danger you create.”
In response, defense attorney Mark Richards said Rittenhouse feared for his life when he fatally shot Rosenbaum, who Richards argued had threatened him, chased him, thrown a plastic bag at him and lunged for his gun. Rittenhouse also shot at three other people who, Richards argued, had attacked him.
“Every person who was shot was attacking Kyle. One with a skateboard, one with his hands, and one with his feet, one with a gun,” Richards said. “Hands and feet can cause great bodily harm.”
The closing arguments took up most of Monday and came at the end of a two-week trial highlighted by emotional and illuminating testimony from Rittenhouse himself, who said he acted in self-defense when he fatally shot Rosenbaum.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself,” he testified.
Rittenhouse, now 18, is charged with five felonies: first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety. Jurors are also able to consider lesser offenses for two of the five counts. If convicted on the most serious charge, Rittenhouse could face a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
A misdemeanor weapons possession charge and a non-criminal curfew violation were dismissed by Judge Bruce Schroeder prior to deliberations.
The charges stem from the chaotic unrest last year in the wake of the Kenosha Police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man. After instances of rioting and fiery destruction, Rittenhouse took a medical kit and an AR-15-style rifle and joined up with a group of other armed people in Kenosha on August 25, 2020.
There, Rittenhouse fatally shot Rosenbaum — who was chasing the teenager and threw a plastic bag at him — and then tried to flee the area. A crowd of people pursued the teenager, and Rittenhouse shot at an unidentified man who tried to kick him; fatally shot Anthony Huber, who had hit him with a skateboard; and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, who was armed with a pistol.
Prosecutors called up to 22 witnesses over the course of six days as they sought to show Rittenhouse provoked Rosenbaum by pointing the rifle at him and acted recklessly. The prosecution portrayed the three other people who confronted the teen as “heroes” trying to stop what they believed to be an active shooting.
However, the defense said Rittenhouse acted in self-defense and feared for his life when he shot at the men.
The trial featured more than a dozen videos from the night that showed what happened before, during and after the shootings. Most of the facts of what happened that night were not up for debate — rather, the heart of the trial was the analysis of Rittenhouse’s actions and whether they can be considered “reasonable.”
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