After just one day of jury selection, opening statements began Tuesday in the homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager who killed two people and injured another during protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in the summer of 2020.
In his opening statement, Kenosha County Deputy District Attorney Thomas Binger, the lead prosecutor in the case, sought to portray Rittenhouse as an outside agitator or “tourist” who came to Kenosha with a military-style rifle illegally. possessed and “contributed to the chaos” that unfolded in the city streets following the police shooting against Jacob Blake in August 2020.
“Hundreds of people on the street that night [were] experiencing the same chaos, the same loud noises, the same gunshots, the same arson, the same tear gas. The same hostile confrontations with people who believe otherwise like them, ”Binger said. “Yet the only person who killed anyone was the accused, Kyle Rittenhouse.”
Rittenhouse, who is now 18, is on trial for fatal shot Anthony M. Huber, 26, and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and injuring Gaige Grosskreutz, now 27. Rittenhouse faces five counts: first degree intentional homicide, first degree reckless homicide, attempted first degree intentional homicide and two counts of first degree reckless breach of security. He also faces a misdemeanor charge for possession of a dangerous weapon before the age of 18. He pleaded not guilty.
Defense attorney Mark Richards argued that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense, first against Rosenbaum, who Richards said threatened to kill Rittenhouse. While the prosecution said Huber and Grosskreutz chased after the armed teenager in an attempt to arrest what they considered to be an active shooter, Richards described the two men as part of a “mob” who Rittenhouse continued and “attacked him in the street like an animal.”
Despite Binger’s objections, Richards posted photos and video clips of the scene of the protests. But the two lawyers offered jurors a glimpse of how they plan to use the wide variety of footage available to present different versions of the events that unfolded on the night of August 25, 2020.
Richards also took issue with Binger’s attempts to characterize Rittenhouse, who lives with his mother about 20 miles from Kenosha in Antioch, Illinois, as an alien.
“The evidence will show that Kyle Rittenhouse had a strong connection to Kenosha,” said Richards, noting that Rittenhouse’s father lives in Kenosha and that Rittenhouse had worked as a lifeguard at a community center that summer.
Binger said that among the first witnesses to testify are Dominique black, who allegedly purchased the AR-15 style rifle used in the shootings with money provided by Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time and not old enough to purchase a gun under Wisconsin law. Black, who was dating Rittenhouse’s sister at the time and had gone with the teenager to protests in downtown Kenosha on the night of the shooting, has been charged with intentionally giving a dangerous weapon to someone in under 18 resulting in death. His case was temporarily put on hold until after Rittenhouse’s trial.
Richards said Rittenhouse himself would be among the witnesses called to testify on behalf of the defense.
The opening statements followed a single day of jury selection on Monday, resulting in a panel of 20 – 11 women and nine men – who will be reduced to 12 when deliberations begin.
The gunfire came on the third night of protests which erupted after a white Kenosha policeman was seen on video filming Blake, a black man, repeatedly behind his back, ultimately leaving him paralyzed from waist to feet. During the previous two nights, protests had escalated into riots, causing extensive property damage to several businesses in downtown Kenosha. Rittenhouse and others who were similarly armed said they were there to protect local businesses.
According to New York Times, none of the potential jurors raised their hands on Monday when Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder asked if there was anyone in the pool who was unfamiliar with the Rittenhouse case . Nonetheless, Schroeder reminded the jury on Tuesday that they must make their final decision on the sole basis of the information provided to the court, instructing them not to watch any media coverage of the trial or discuss it with anyone outside the jury.
Schroeder already draws attention in the high-profile trial before it began by ordering that those who had been shot cannot be labeled “victims”, while declaring that “rioters”, “looters” or “arsonists” could potentially be used.
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