Prosecutors Want Jury to Consider Lesser Charges in Rittenhouse Murder Trial Kyle Rittenhouse, right, and his attorney Corey Chirafisi listen during the trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse on Wednesday in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse is accused of shooting three demonstrators, killing two of them, during a night of unrest that erupted in Kenosha after police shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back while Blake was being arrested in August 2020. (Getty Images)
Nathan Layne Thursday, 11 November 2021 06:07 PM
Prosecutors in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse said they would seek approval for the jury to consider lesser charges after days of testimony in which the U.S. teenager and his lawyers argued strongly that he acted in self defense.
Rittenhouse, 18, is charged in the killing of Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and the wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, during chaotic racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 25, 2020 following the police shooting and wounding of a Black man. He has pleaded not guilty.
Rittenhouse's lawyers rested their case after calling their final witness, a video journalist who said one of the men he shot had posed a threat to the teenager, who was 17 at the time of the shootings.
Kenosha County Judge Bruce Schroeder said closing arguments in the trial, which has polarized America, would begin on Monday.
The arguments are likely to underscore how Rittenhouse has become a divisive figure. He is viewed as heroic by some conservatives who favor expansive gun rights and consider the shootings justified amid the Kenosha chaos. Many on the left view Rittenhouse as a vigilante and a symbol of an out-of-control American gun culture.
Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney James Kraus said he planned to ask the judge to allow the jury to consider lesser charges on the counts involving the shootings of Huber and Grosskreutz, a move that would lower the burden of proof for conviction.
"I'm not surprised the state requested lesser included instructions," Michael Hart, a criminal defense lawyer in Milwaukee. "They recongize that their case had some shortcomings and they are trying to salvage as many convictions as they can.”
Rittenhouse testified in his own defense https://www.reuters.com/world/us/rittenhouse-called-stand-testify-own-defense-us-murder-trial-2021-11-10 on Wednesday, saying he opened fire with his AR-15-style rifle to protect himself after being attacked.
The defense sought to hammer home its self-defense argument by calling to the stand Drew Hernandez, then an independent reporter in Kenosha to record the protests.
Hernandez testified he saw Rittenhouse earlier in the night calming down a potential confrontation. Rittenhouse's lawyers have argued he was not seeking trouble that night.
"He actually is successful because the rioters then disperse," Hernandez said.
Hernandez, who now works for conservative media outlet Real America's Voice, was close enough to record the Rosenbaum shooting. He said he saw Rosenbaum "charging" at Rittenhouse and then lunging at the teenager.
Hernandez had several tense exchanges with Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, who noted that he referred to Rittenhouse as "Kyle" in his testimony and had sent out a tweet supportive of the "armed citizen" who had shot a man – later identified as Rosenbaum – minutes after the shooting.
Earlier in the day, Binger again tangled with the judge, accusing him of unfairness. The judge on Wednesday excoriated Binger for broaching the teenager's decision to remain silent, as is his right, and introducing inadmissible evidence.
The tensions resurfaced on Thursday when Binger argued against a defense attempt to present an updated report from use-of-force expert John Black, who took the witness stand to analyze video of the shootings. Binger said the report contained evidence the judge had already ruled could not be admitted.
"Yesterday I was the target of your ire for disregarding your orders. Today the defense is disregarding your order," Binger said, adding that "fundamental fairness" was the issue at stake. "If I'm being held to obey the court's orders, I'm asking that the defense be held to that to."
Schroeder responded: "I was talking yesterday about the Constitution of the United States," referring to Rittenhouse's right to remain silent. "That's not what we are talking about here today."
Rittenhouse on Thursday sat alongside his lawyers wearing a navy blue jacket, burgundy shirt and yellow-and-blue stripped tie.