Kyle Rittenhouse Found Innocent Across All Charges: Live Updates

KENOSHA, Wis. Kyle Rittenhouse, who fatally shot two men and wounded another during protests and riots over police behavior in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was found not guilty of murder and other charges on Friday in a deeply divisive case that ignited a citizen debate over vigilance, arms rights and the definition of self-defense.

After about 26 hours of deliberation, it appeared that a jury accepted Mr Rittenhouse’s explanation that he had acted reasonably to defend himself in an unruly and turbulent scene in August 2020, days after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a black resident, during a summer of unrest following the assassination of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Mr. Rittenhouse, 18, sobbed and was held back by his lawyers after the jury read their verdict.

After the shootings, Mr. Rittenhouse transformed from an unknown 17-year-old from rural Illinois into a symbol. Some Americans were horrified by the images of a teenager pushing with a powerful semi-automatic rifle on a city street during demonstrations of racial justice, a reminder of the extent of open transportation laws in the United States. Others saw a well-meaning young man who had gone to keep the peace and provide medical care, a response to the sometimes violent protests that had hit U.S. cities in the summer of 2020.

“So many people are looking at this case and they are seeing what they want to see,” Thomas Binger, the prosecutor in the trial, had warned jurors before beginning the deliberations. The trial had become so politicized that conservative groups raised money for Mr Rittenhouse’s defense, and small factions of protesters – including gun rights supporters and racial justice protesters – had awaited sentencing over the court building steps.

As the verdict was read, Mr Rittenhouse’s mother and sisters cried, and friends and family of the men whom Mr Rittenhouse shot were hugging each other. Outside, the silence provided room for shouts from supporters of Mr. Rittenhouse. Governor Tony Evers had prepared for any unrest following the verdict by approving 500 Wisconsin Army National Guard troops.

On August 25, 2020, Mr. Rittenhouse to downtown Kenosha with his rifle and a medical set on the third day of civil unrest over Officer Rusten Sheskey’s shot at Mr. Blake in the former factory town with 100,000 inhabitants. (In January, prosecutors announced they did not charge Officer Sheskey for misdemeanors.) Protesters marched peacefully in places, but some smashed street lights and set fire to cars and shops. Law enforcement was overwhelmed, and dozens of civilians took their own firearms to guard companies and subdivisions, contributing to a tense and chaotic atmosphere that included sparring between the groups.

Testimony and video footage shown during the two-week trial revealed that Mr. Rittenhouse was at one point chased into a parking lot by Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, who was unarmed and behaving erratically. Mr. Rittenhouse turned around and shot him at close range, killing Mr. Rosenbaum, who had lived in Kenosha.

Mr. Rittenhouse then shot two other people – Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz – who were pursuing Mr. Rittenhouse, as he fled, testified. Mr. Grosskreutz, a doctor from the Milwaukee suburbs, survived and testified during the trial, saying he had drawn a gun because he believed Mr. Rittenhouse was an active shooter. Mr. Huber, who was 26 and had protested against the shooting of Mr. Blake – a longtime friend – died after being shot in the chest.

During the trial, prosecutors tried to portray Mr. Rittenhouse, a former resident of Antioch, Ill., As an instigator who had behaved with criminal ruthlessness, putting himself in a fleeting scene with protesters and then firing his gun with slight provocation. .

There was chaos that night in Kenosha, prosecutor Mr Binger told the jury in his opening statement. But “the only one who killed anyone,” he said, “was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse.”

The crux of the matter, however, was a struggle over which actions qualify as self-defense. Wisconsin law allows lethal force to be used if a person “reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself,” and in the state there is no obligation to withdraw , before the use of force.

The prosecution struggled to undermine Mr Rittenhouse’s central defense: that he had feared for his life when he was chased by Mr Rosenbaum, a man who had been caught on video all evening shouting threats and racial epithets and – according to Mr Rittenhouse and a witness called by the prosecution – had promised to kill Mr Rittenhouse if he found him alone. Rosenbaum had been released that day from a hospital where he had received psychiatric treatment and was being treated for bipolar disorder and depression, testimony showed.

It was Mr. Rosenbaum, a defense attorney, Mark Richards, said in his opening statement that “lit the fuse” that night, “trying to take Kyle’s weapon from him to use against him.”

Yet, in testimony, some people who had observed Mr. Rosenbaum, who was 5-foot-4, the danger they perceived from him that night. Jason Lackowski, a former Marine and resident of Green Bay, Wisconsin, who said he had traveled to Kenosha with a gun, knife and other weapons to “come down and help in any way we could to protect local property” “in town, testified that he saw Mr. Rosenbaum as” a chattering idiot. ”

Perhaps the closest witness to the meeting was Richie McGinniss, a videographer for The Daily Caller, a prosecution witness whose testimony was helpful in establishing a crucial detail for the defense: He said Mr Rosenbaum had intervened after the race on Mr Rittenhouse’s rifle . before Mr. Rittenhouse fired.

“It was clear to me that it was a situation where it was likely that something dangerous would happen, whether it was Mr Rosenbaum who seized it or Mr Rittenhouse who shot it,” Mr said. McGinniss at the booth.

Mr. McGinniss was also emotional in the courtroom as he described the trauma from the shootings and his fears when he realized he might have been hit by a bullet. After hearing the shots just a few feet away, Mr. McGinniss that he stomped his legs on the ground to make sure he had not been injured.

Mr. Rittenhouse had faced five crimes, including first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree ruthless murder and attempted first-degree premeditated murder. A sixth charge, for illegal possession of the rifle, was dismissed by Judge Bruce Schroeder after defense attorneys claimed that Mr. Rittenhouse did not violate that statute because of his age and the length of the barrel of his semi-automatic rifle. The pistol was purchased by Dominick Black, a friend of Mr. Rittenhouse, because Mr. Rittenhouse was 17 years old and not legally old enough to buy it, testimony showed.

The trial, which took place in the Kenosha courthouse, which was closed and heavily barricaded during the riots in August 2020, was marked by angry clashes over the trial between the judge and the lawyers, particularly the prosecutor, Mr Binger.

Last week, the defense advocated a lawsuit, suggesting that Mr Binger – who had asked questions about a subject that the judge had previously said was banned – deliberately sabotaged the lawsuit to avoid an acquittal.

Judge Schroeder, the longest-serving district court judge in Wisconsin, insisted he wanted to keep politics out of his courtroom, scolding a potential jury member during the jury selection, declaring that his belief in the Second Amendment biased him in favor for Mr. Rittenhouse. But the judge also drew attention to Veterans Day for the unusual move of getting the jury to approve a defense witness – a veteran – and to periodically start throwing himself aside for the jury on legal theory, Roman history and the Bible.

Juries heard from dozens of witnesses, including women close to the men who had been shot and killed; other armed men who had joined Mr. Rittenhouse on the streets of Kenosha that night; and witnesses who had livestreamed the shootings. On the most watched day of the trial, Mr. Rittenhouse testified in his own defense.

His testimony began in an emotional tone: he burst into tears as he commemorated the night of the shootings, prompting the judge to call a break. But in most of Mr. Rittenhouse’s time at the witness stand gave him a calm account in which he said he had brought a gun to Kenosha’s center to be protected, had no plans to fire it and only did so when he feared for his life.

Mr. Grosskreutz, the only survivor of Mr. Rittenhouse’s shots, described the chaotic scene on the stand after he heard the first several shot sounds. Mr. Grosskreutz testified that he ran in the direction of the shot, determined to help people who had been injured. In a matter of moments, he encountered Mr. Rittenhouse, who fled down the street with his rifle, and began to follow in his direction with a pistol, as Mr. Grosskreutz had brought.

Da Mr. Huber chased and swung a skateboard toward Mr. Rittenhouse’s head, shot Mr. Mr. Rittenhouse Hubs in the chest. Mr. Grosskreutz continued to approach, he said in his testimony, first with his pistol pointed in the air, then in the direction of Mr. Rittenhouse.

“I never tried to kill the defendant,” he said. “At that moment, I was trying to preserve my own life.”

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