Six Key Moments That Shaped the Trial of Kyle Rittenhouse
KENOSHA, Wis. — The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse has lasted for two weeks, with dozens of witnesses, photo evidence and video clips, as well as testimony from Mr. Rittenhouse himself, who is accused of intentional and reckless homicide and other crimes for fatally shooting two men and injuring a third.
The jury in the courtroom in Kenosha, Wis., has watched intently and scribbled notes throughout opening statements and eight days of testimony. Closing arguments are expected from both sides on Monday.
Here are six pivotal points from the trial:
Rittenhouse Questioned on His Use of Deadly Force
Thomas Binger, a prosecutor, questioned Kyle Rittenhouse on his decision to use deadly force in shooting three men, two of whom he killed, during protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wis.
“Everybody that you shot at that night, you intended to kill, correct?” “I didn’t intend to kill them. I intended it to — I intended to stop the people who were attacking me.” “By killing them.” “I did what I had to do to stop the person who was attacking me.” “By killing them.” “Two of them passed away, but I stopped the threat from attacking me.” “By using deadly force.” “I used deadly force.” “That you knew was going to kill.” “I didn’t know if it was going to kill them, but I used the, I used deadly force to stop the threat that was attacking me.” “You intentionally used deadly force against Joseph Rosenbaum, correct?” “Yes.” “You intentionally used deadly force against the man who came and tried to kick you in the face.” “Yes.” “Correct? You intentionally use deadly force against Anthony Huber, correct?” “Yes.” “You intentionally used deadly force against Gaige Grosskreutz, correct?” “Yes.”
Thomas Binger, a prosecutor, questioned Kyle Rittenhouse on his decision to use deadly force in shooting three men, two of whom he killed, during protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wis.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic
The Defendant Takes the Stand
Mr. Rittenhouse testified in his own defense, offering his first detailed public account of the shootings. He answered questions from lawyers for several hours, mostly appearing composed but occasionally breaking down into tears while his mother, Wendy, sobbed from the courtroom gallery.
He insisted that he had been asked to go to downtown Kenosha in August 2020 by the owner of Car Source, a business that had endured damage and arson in demonstrations over the police shooting of a Kenosha resident. Mr. Rittenhouse told the jury that he had feared for his life and acted in self-defense when he shot three people. Under cross-examination, Mr. Rittenhouse was pressed on the risk that Joseph Rosenbaum, who had no weapon, posed when Mr. Rittenhouse shot and killed him.
“If I would have let Mr. Rosenbaum take my firearm from me, he would have used it and killed me with it and probably killed more people,” Mr. Rittenhouse said.
‘Don’t Get Brazen’: Rittenhouse Trial Judge Berates Prosecutor
Judge Bruce Schroeder has often clashed with the prosecution during Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial. At one point, Judge Schroeder shouted at the lead prosecutor, Thomas Binger, “Don’t get brazen with me.”
“There have been numerous occasions during this trial where they’ve opened the door, the one time when they’re going into Mr. Rosenbaum’s prior — the reason he doesn’t like guns, and I said something. I whispered in Mr. Krause’s ear, ‘It’s because of the prior convictions. Please stop.’ And he did. He knows if you’re going to go into something that’s been excluded in a pretrial order, you’d better ask the court, you’d better get permission. This is ridiculous.” “It wasn’t — it wasn’t excluded, Your Honor.” “You know why it was excluded in the first place? Because it was propensity evidence. That is exactly what 90404 is designed to prevent. You’re talking about his attitudes? His attitude is he wants to shoot people. Now, I’ve admitted that kind of evidence in other trials when it’s been appropriate. I didn’t admit it in this case because, to me, what I’ve heard in this trial — and, by the way, Mr. Richards absolutely correctly points out that just hours ago, I said I had heard nothing in this trial to change any of my rulings. So why—” “That was before [unclear] the testimony, your honor.” “Pardon me?” “That was before the —” “Don’t get brazen with me. You knew very well — you know very well that an attorney can’t go into these types of areas when the judge has already ruled, without asking, outside the presence of the jury to do so. So don’t give me that.”
Judge Bruce Schroeder has often clashed with the prosecution during Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial. At one point, Judge Schroeder shouted at the lead prosecutor, Thomas Binger, “Don’t get brazen with me.”CreditCredit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic
The Judge Expresses Frustration
Judge Bruce Schroeder has a reputation for being tough on sentencing but especially vocal regarding the rights of defendants during trial. That was particularly on display during the Rittenhouse trial, when Judge Schroeder rebuked a prosecutor, Thomas Binger, over what the judge perceived to be violations of his orders.
“You’re an experienced trial attorney, and you’re telling me that when the judge says, ‘I’m excluding this,’ you just take it upon yourself to put it in because you think that you found a way around it? Come on,” Judge Schroeder said.
A Witness Downplays a Threat
Jason Lackowski, a former Marine who was among the armed people who arrived in Kenosha after he saw reports of destruction during two nights of civil unrest, testified as a prosecution witness, appearing to undermine Mr. Rittenhouse’s assertion that Mr. Rosenbaum posed a lethal threat. Mr. Lackowski told the court that Mr. Rosenbaum had taunted him and a group of armed people like him who said they had decided to come to the area because they wanted to defend the local businesses.
“After he had done that a few times, I turned my back to him and ignored him,” said Mr. Lackowski, who dismissed Mr. Rosenbaum as “a babbling idiot.”
Witness Says Rosenbaum Lunged at Rittenhouse
Richie McGinniss, a videographer for the conservative website The Daily Caller, said Joseph Rosenbaum had attempted to take Kyle Rittenhouse’s gun before before Mr. Rittenhouse shot and killed him.
“He was reaching specifically for the weapon and — because that’s where his hands went.” “Your interpretation of what he was trying to do or what he was intending to do or anything along those lines is complete guesswork, isn’t it?” “Well, he said [expletive] you and then he reached for the weapon.” “Were you fearful of Mr. Balch and Mr. Rittenhouse?” “At the time that I was walking with them?” “Yes.” “I was fearful of the potentiality that, you know, those weapons would be used. So I would say, like, I was elevated in terms of my assessment of the risk involved in the situation, but I wouldn’t say that I was specifically fearful of them individually. I was fearful of what might happen.” “You’re fearful of the situation in Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020, all the armed people, the rioting, the chaos and the social unrest?” ”And the guns, yeah.” “And the guns.” “Yeah.”
Richie McGinniss, a videographer for the conservative website The Daily Caller, said Joseph Rosenbaum had attempted to take Kyle Rittenhouse’s gun before before Mr. Rittenhouse shot and killed him.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Mark Hertzberg
Testimony of a Close Encounter
Richie McGinniss, a videographer for The Daily Caller, a conservative website, was perhaps the closest witness to the shooting of Mr. Rosenbaum to testify at the trial. Mr. McGinniss was trailing behind Mr. Rittenhouse and Mr. Rosenbaum when their chase began, and he was only feet away when Mr. Rittenhouse fired his gun.
Mr. McGinniss is both a witness for the prosecution and a named victim. One of the criminal counts against Mr. Rittenhouse accuses him of recklessly endangering the safety of Mr. McGinniss, who testified that he quickly checked to see if he had also been shot.
But he also provided testimony that hurt the prosecution’s case, by saying that Mr. Rosenbaum had first lunged at Mr. Rittenhouse and reached for the barrel of the gun.
When the two were in the back of an S.U.V. together, as Mr. Rosenbaum was dying, Mr. McGinniss tried to reassure him, he testified.
“I was just telling him that we’re going to have a beer together afterwards, and it was all going to be OK,” a shaken Mr. McGinniss said.
Survivor Shot by Rittenhouse Describes Encounter
Gaige Grosskreutz testified that during the protests, he had run in the direction of gunfire, intending to treat anyone who had been injured by the shooting.
Prosecutor: “Did you witness him fire a shot into Mr. Huber’s chest?” “I did.” “So when you come upon the defendant at this point, do you recall what you were holding in your hands?” “I do.” “What were you holding?” In my right hand, I had my Glock pistol, and in my left hand, I had my cellphone.” “What was going through your mind at this particular moment?” “That I was going to die.” “So after you raised your hands like this, you saw the defendant rerack the weapon?” “Correct.” “What did you think was going to happen?” “In my experiences and in my inference in that moment, for the defendant had pointed his weapon at me and I had put my hands in the air. Reracking the weapon, in my mind, meant that the defendant pulled the trigger while my hands were in the air. But the gun didn’t fire — so then by reracking the weapon, I inferred that the defendant wasn’t accepting my surrender.” “Did you feel that he was going to point the gun and shoot at you again?” “Yes.”
Gaige Grosskreutz testified that during the protests, he had run in the direction of gunfire, intending to treat anyone who had been injured by the shooting.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Mark Hertzberg
The Lone Survivor Speaks
Gaige Grosskreutz, the lone survivor of the shooting in Kenosha, was a crucial witness for the prosecution, testifying that he feared for his life when he encountered Mr. Rittenhouse. Mr. Grosskreutz, a 28-year-old medic, was shot in the arm by Mr. Rittenhouse after following him down the street as he fled. Mr. Grosskreutz testified that he had run in the direction of gunfire, intending to treat anyone who had been injured by the shooting.
Mr. Grosskreutz, who was carrying a pistol, and Mr. Rittenhouse faced each other on the street just after Mr. Rittenhouse had shot Mr. Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber.
The 6 Criminal Charges Against Kyle Rittenhouse
Count 1: First-degree reckless homicide. Kyle Rittenhouse is accused of this crime in connection with the fatal shooting of Joseph D. Rosenbaum. Under Wisconsin law, the crime is defined as recklessly causing death under circumstances that show utter disregard for human life.
Counts 2 and 5: First-degree recklessly endangering safety. Mr. Rittenhouse is charged with recklessly endangering two people who, according to the criminal complaint, had shots fired toward them but were not hit: Richard McGinnis and an unknown male seen in video of the episode.
Count 3: First-degree intentional homicide. Mr. Rittenhouse faces this charge in connection with the fatal shooting of Anthony M. Huber. The crime, analogous to first-degree murder in other states, is defined as causing the death of another human being with intent to kill that person or someone else.
Count 4: Attempted first-degree intentional homicide. Mr. Rittenhouse faces this charge in connection with the shooting of Gaige P. Grosskreutz, who was struck and wounded.
Count 6: Possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18. Though Wisconsin is an “open-carry” state where it is legal for adults to carry firearms openly, state law prohibits minors from doing so. Mr. Rittenhouse was 17 at the time of the shooting.
“What was going through your mind at this particular moment?” Mr. Binger, the prosecutor, asked in court.
“That I was going to die,” Mr. Grosskreutz said.
Under questioning from the defense, Mr. Grosskreutz acknowledged that Mr. Rittenhouse fired after Mr. Grosskreutz had approached him, several feet away, with Mr. Grosskreutz’s gun pointed in Mr. Rittenhouse’s direction.
An Officer Gives His Perspective
Officer Pep Moretti of the Kenosha police spoke publicly for the first time about his role in the case, and about how police officers had reacted the night of the shootings. His testimony suggested that he was responsible, in part, for not arresting Mr. Rittenhouse right after the shootings in the chaotic streets of the city. After Mr. Rittenhouse shot three people, he approached Officer Moretti’s squad car with his hands in the air as a gesture of surrender, but police officers ordered him out of the way and rushed down the street to aid victims and search for an active shooter.
Officer Moretti testified that he did not interpret Mr. Rittenhouse’s actions as an attempt to surrender. He said that throughout the days of protest and rioting, many people in the crowds carried guns and other weapons — and that it was not unusual for someone to approach officers during the unrest with their hands up.
“There was probably more people armed with weapons than not throughout the entire course of the civil unrest,” he said.
“So seeing someone with an AR-15 wouldn’t necessarily mean much to you at that point?” asked James Kraus, a prosecutor.
“At that point in time that night, no,” Officer Moretti said.