Kyle Rittenhouse incited violence on the streets of Kenosha by carrying a semi-automatic weapon to a rally and intimidating others, and then walked away like a “hero in a Western,” a prosecutor said Monday, Nov. 15, during closing arguments in Rittenhouse’s murder trial.
However, Rittenhouse’s attorney contended that the shooting began when he was accosted that night by a “crazy person” and believed his rifle would be snatched away and used against him. Rittenhouse, according to defense counsel Mark Richards, acted in self-defense.
After a day of arguments, jurors were instructed to report Tuesday morning for the start of deliberations in the case, which has sparked a national discussion over weapons, vigilantism, and law and order.
Eighteen jurors have been deliberating the case; the 12 jurors who will decide Rittenhouse’s fate and the six alternate jurors will be chosen by pulling numbers from a lottery drum.
Rittenhouse, then 17, fatally shot two men and injured a third during a chaotic night of anti-racial injustice rallies in the summer of 2020.
Rittenhouse stated that he traveled to Kenosha from Antioch, Illinois, to safeguard property from riots in the days following the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white Kenosha police officer. Rittenhouse, a former police youth cadet, and those he fired are white.
Prosecutor Thomas Binger stated during closing arguments that Rittenhouse was a “wannabe soldier” who was “looking for trouble that night.” Binger repeatedly showed the jury drone video of Rittenhouse allegedly aiming the AR-style rifle towards protestors.
“This is the provocation. This is what starts this incident,” the prosecutor stated.
“You lose the right to self-defense when you’re the one who brought the gun when you are the one creating the danger when you’re the one provoking other people,” he told the jurors.
Rittenhouse, now 18, faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of the most severe accusation leveled against him, first-degree intentional homicide, the most severe murder penalty in Wisconsin.
Binger honed particularly on the murder of 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, the first victim that night and whose assassination sparked the subsequent ones. The prosecution frequently referred to the incident as murder, claiming that it was unjustifiable.
The prosecutor reminded jurors that Rittenhouse stated throughout his testimony that he was aware Rosenbaum was unarmed. However, Binger noted no video evidence to support the defense argument that Rosenbaum threatened Rittenhouse’s life.
Binger refuted the claim that Rosenbaum was attempting to seize Rittenhouse’s gun. “Mr. Rosenbaum is not even within arm’s reach when the first shot occurs,” Binger stated. In addition, he refuted the notion that Rittenhouse was forced to shoot, saying that he could have fled.
And Binger contended that once Rosenbaum was injured, he could not steal the rifle from Rittenhouse, which was tied to him as he fell to the ground with a cracked pelvis. Rittenhouse continued firing, hitting Rosenbaum in the back with what the prosecutor dubbed the “kill shot.”
“I think we can also agree that we shouldn’t have 17-year-olds running around our streets with AR-15s, because this is exactly what happens,” Binger added.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Richards characterized Rosenbaum as a “crazy person” who was “desperate to cause trouble that night” and attacked Rittenhouse without provocation.
“Mr. Rosenbaum was shot because he was chasing my client and going to kill him, take his gun and carry out the threats he made,” Richards said, adding that Rittenhouse never aimed his gun before being pursued: “It didn’t happen.”
Richards said the prosecution’s magnified image of Rittenhouse aiming his rifle at demonstrators is “hocus pocus” that proves nothing.
Rittenhouse remained somewhat emotionless during the debates, sometimes scribbling notes. Wendy Rittenhouse, his mother, listened carefully behind him.
With a verdict imminent, Gov. Tony Evers stated that 500 National Guard personnel would be prepared to assist local police enforcement in Kenosha if required.