KENOSHA, Wis. (NewsNation Now) — The homicide trial against Kyle Rittenhouse was thrown into jeopardy Wednesday when lawyers asked for a mistrial over what appeared to be out-of-bounds questions asked of Rittenhouse by the chief prosecutor.
Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder did not immediately rule on the request but was clearly angry at the prosecution, telling Thomas Binger: “When you say that that you were acting in good faith, I don’t believe that.”
The turn came after Rittenhouse took the stand and testified that he was under attack when he shot three men, killing two of them and wounding the third, during a protest against police brutality in Kenosha last year.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself,” he said.
In an account largely corroborated by video and the prosecution’s own witnesses, Rittenhouse said that the first man cornered him and put his hand on the barrel of Rittenhouse’s rifle, the second man hit him with a skateboard, and the third man came at him with a gun of his own.
During cross-examination, Rittenhouse said that he “didn’t want to have to shoot” Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man to fall that night, but he said Rosenbaum was chasing him and had threatened to kill him earlier.
“If I would have let Mr. Rosenbaum take my firearm from me, he would have used it and killed me with it,” he said, “and probably killed more people.”
But Rittenhouse also acknowledged that the strap holding his gun was in place and that he had both hands on the weapon.
Prosecutor Thomas Binger sought to drive home the state’s contention that Rittenhouse created the dangerous situation that led to bloodshed that night.
“You understand that when you point your AR-15 at someone, it may make them feel like you’re going to kill them, correct?” Binger asked.
Rittenhouse, his voice cracking, responded: “He could have ran away instead of trying to take my gun from me, but he kept chasing me. It didn’t stop him.”
Rittenhouse, now 18, has argued that he fired in self-defense after the men attacked him. Earlier that day, Rittenhouse testified, while in tears, that Rosenbaum threatened twice to kill him.
“If I catch any of you (expletives) alone I’m going to (expletive) kill you,” Rittenhouse said. “I’m going to cut your (expletive) hearts out.”
Rittenhouse said Rosenbaum called his group “N-words.”
After the testimony, the judge called a 10-minute break in testimony to allow Rittenhouse to regain his composure.
He also testified Wednesday that he saw videos of violence in downtown Kenosha the day before the shootings, including a brick being thrown at a police officer’s head and cars burning in a Car Source dealership lot.
Rittenhouse said was asked to help guard the used car dealership along with other armed men, including one who was a boyfriend of his sister at the time. Rittenhouse said his objective that night was to provide medical aid to anyone hurt.
Rittenhouse said the Car Source owner “was happy we were there” and gave permission for the group to be there.
Rittenhouse said Rosenbaum chased him in the Car Source parking lot.
“When I saw him running at me I shot him about four times,” Rittenhouse said.
Rittenhouse later shot and killed Anthony Huber, testifying that he opened fire after Huber struck him in the neck with his skateboard and grabbed his rifle.
When a third man, Gaige Grosskreutz, “lunges at me with his pistol pointed directly at my head,” Rittenhouse shot him, too, wounding him.
“I didn’t intend to kill them, I intended to stop the people who were attacking me,” Rittenhouse said.
Tuesday’s testimony revealed that Rittenhouse was badly shaken after shooting the men during street unrest in Kenosha, at one point telling a person who had joined him in an effort to protect businesses from damaging protesters that, “My life might be over.”
“He repeats, ‘I just shot someone’ over and over, and I believe at some point he said he had to shoot someone,” testified Nicholas Smith, who was alongside Rittenhouse at a car dealership in August 2020 and was the first witness called by his defense team.
Another witness in Rittenhouse’s group, JoAnn Fiedler, described him as pale, shaking, sweating and stammering after the shootings.
“My God, my life might be over,” Fiedler quoted Rittenhouse as saying. She said he didn’t give any details about what happened but told her he “had to do it.”
Rittenhouse brought a semi-automatic rifle to a protest against police brutality in downtown Kenosha in August 2020. The city was in the throes of several nights of chaotic demonstrations that began after a white Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake, who is Black, while responding to a domestic disturbance.
Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz in the arm. Prosecutors have charged him with multiple counts, including first-degree intentional homicide, which carries a mandatory life sentence.
The prosecution rested Tuesday after introducing drone video that offered jurors a new view of Rittenhouse’s fatal shooting of Joseph Rosenbaum — the event that sent Rittenhouse hurrying away from the scene, quickly pursued by other protesters who sought to stop him.
The jury watched as the drone video was zoomed in and slowed down to show Rosenbaum following Rittenhouse, and then Rittenhouse wheeling around and shooting Rosenbaum at close range. A pathologist testified that Rosenbaum had soot injuries that could indicate he had his hand over the barrel of Rittenhouse’s rifle.
But it was unclear from video footage whether Rosenbaum was grabbing for Rittenhouse’s gun or trying to swat it away, said the witness, Dr. Doug Kelley of the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Fiedler was with Rittenhouse outside the car dealership just before the first shooting and said they were being shouted at and taunted by protesters, including Rosenbaum. But Fiedler, who said she carried a pistol, testified she never saw Rittenhouse threaten or point his gun at anyone.
“The whole night was quite shocking, but we didn’t really do anything,” Fiedler said of the yelling directed at those guarding the store. “We just kind of stood there. You have to ignore that.”
Fiedler said she later opened the door of the dealership for Rittenhouse after the shootings, and he appeared to be “totally in shock” and fell into her, telling her he had shot someone.
Last week, witnesses testified that Rosenbaum, 36, was “hyperaggressive” and “acting belligerently” that night and threatened to kill Rittenhouse at one point. One witness said Rosenbaum was gunned down after chasing Rittenhouse and lunging for his rifle.
To win an acquittal on self-defense grounds, defendants must show that they reasonably believed their lives were in danger and that they used the appropriate amount of force. The jury must decide whether Rittenhouse believed he was in such peril and whether that belief was reasonable under the circumstances.