Opening Statements in Rittenhouse Trial Paint Vastly Different Pictures of Defendant

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By Ankita Joshi and Gina Kim

KENOSHA, WI – The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse began Tuesday with opening statements from both the prosecution and defense, with both painting vastly different pictures of Rittenhouse’s actions at a police brutality protest more than a year ago.

Rittenhouse is present on five felony charges, a misdemeanor charge, and a curfew ticket. These include counts of the first degree intentional homicide of Anthony Huber, the first degree reckless homicide of Joseph Rosenbaum, and the attempted first degree homicide of Graige Grosskreutz.

On Aug. 23, 2020, Kenosha, Wisconsin erupted in “volatile protests” in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot and left partially paralyzed by a white police officer during a domestic disturbance call.

During this time period, Rittenhouse, who was then 17, had paid a friend of his, Dominic Black, to buy a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle for him in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

On the night before Aug. 25, 2020, Rittenhouse, from Antioch, Illinois, spent the night at Black’s house, and the following night went to the protests with a medic bag and the semi-automatic AR-15 rifle.

At the end of the night, Rittenhouse had allegedly been involved in the deaths of two individuals, and causing harm to another.

Prior to the beginning of the trial, Judge Bruce Schroeder ruled that the three men who were shot could not be referred to as “victims,” but can be referred to as “rioters” and “looters.”

In a similar fashion, the court session began with both the defense and prosecution going over several motions before opening arguments commenced.

One of these motions included a motion of reconsideration proposed by the defense on which Judge Schroeder has not yet ruled, and involves elements of affirmative defense (self-defense).

Assistant District Attorney and Lead Prosecutor Thomas Binger began his opening statement by highlighting that Rittenhouse had “chased down Mr. Rosenbaum and confronted him,” and the “shot that killed Rosenbaum was a shot to the back.”

After shooting Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse allegedly fled from the scene, and did not provide any aid, even though he had been walking around the protest with a medic bag claiming to be an EMT.

After hearing the shot, citizens attempted to stop Rittenhouse. Eventually after being chased and hit, Rittenhouse lost his balance and fell to the ground which was when Anthony Huber hit him over the head with his skateboard and tried to take the rifle away from Rittenhouse.

However, Huber was not able to take the rifle away, and was shot directly in the stomach, killing him instantly, outlined Binger.

It was also noted that all of the damage that had been inflicted on the city from the protests over the prior two nights only involved property damage.

“Fortunately, in the entire sequence of events, this was all property damage. And one of the things we had all agreed on yesterday is life is more important than property. Up until (that) Tuesday night, despite all of the things the community had experienced, no one had been killed,” stated Binger.

Binger continued by justifying the citizens’ actions by explaining how tourists from outside Kenosha had come into the city, and contributed to the chaos, causing a heightened fear of safety.

Regardless of this chaos, Binger heavily emphasized how the only deaths that occurred were the result of Rittenhouse’s actions.

“Of the hundreds of people that came to Kenosha during that week, of the hundreds of people that were out of the street, the evidence will show that the only person who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse,” Binger further emphasized.

In relation to the victims, Binger drew a contrast between how Rittenhouse reacted to Rosenbaum versus how others at the protest had.

Binger noted Rosenbaum had been released from the hospital earlier that day, and video evidence had shown how he was going up to people who were armed, and was being confrontational. However, everyone had just pushed him away, and “no one appear[ed] to take him as a serious danger.”

The shots fired at both Huber and Grosskreutz occurred during the struggle to try to remove the rifle from Rittenhouse’s possession.

Binger ended his opening statement by bringing up the issue of self-defense, and laying the burden on the defense to prove that Rittenhouse had experienced “imminent death or great bodily harm to himself.”

Defense Attorney Richards expanded upon the issue of self-defense, calling to attention the “strong ties” Rittenhouse held toward the town of Kenosha, supplementing the defendant’s reasonable means.

On the morning of Aug. 24, having witnessed the destruction brought upon local businesses, Rittenhouse participated in cleaning Reuther High School, said the defense.

The defense said later that evening Rittenhouse met one of the owners of Car Source, who agreed to provide the resources necessary so Rittenhouse and Black could protect their establishments for them.

This is just one of several interactions between Rittenhouse and members of Kenosha, many of whom expressed concern and disapproval for the events that transpired, the defense noted.

On the night of Aug. 25, Rittenhouse followed two other associates south down Sheridan Road, agreeing he would turn himself into the police soon. Medical bag and gun in hand, Rittenhouse called for medical assistance.

Rittenhouse’s attorney Richards said that, instead, three rioters approached—a noose, axe, and 9mm firearm in their possession. One rioter was Rosenbaum himself, accusing Rittenhouse of aiming his gun. Not wanting to start a fight, the defense said, Rittenhouse extracted himself from the scene.

As the defense tells it, later, at 11:45 p.m., Black informed Rittenhouse there were fires and windows being broken. Rittenhouse returned to the local Car Source to provide aid. There, he witnessed several individuals, Rosenbaum included, start a dumpster fire.

Though Richards conceded his client was the only one to kill that night, he added that Rittenhouse was also the only one to have been pursued by Rosenbaum, who threatened to murder the defendant earlier. Furthermore, it was Savinsky, another instigator, who shot first while chasing Rittenhouse down Sheridan Road.

“Rosenbaum is not deterred (by the sound of gunfire), he continues to run, closing the distance…wearing that maroon shirt on his face as a mask, covering up his identity, because he wants to steal my client’s firearm and carry out the threat he made earlier,” stated Rittenhouse’s attorney Richards.

Hence when Rosenbaum leaped toward him in the Car Source parking lot, Rittenhouse shot in self-defense, proposed Richards to the jury.

Richards held that his client had good reason to flee instead of providing aid. Video evidence displayed numerous angry mob members shouting and pursuing Rittenhouse after the altercation. One mob member carried a firearm.

Furthermore, Rittenhouse fled toward the direction of the police. He had no intention to escape custody. Rather, he sought to protect himself, said Rittenhouse’s attorney Richards

In the Rittenhouse defense picture, as Rittenhouse tumbled into the ground, his pursuers continued their assault, kicking and punching the defendant while he lay prone. Defense Attorney Richards noted the exceptional size and mass of the skateboard Huber brought down upon Rittenhouse’s shoulder, head, and neck, even suggesting the intent to sever.

Therefore, the defense claims, when Huber reached for Rittenhouse’s gun, Rittenhouse was within reason to shoot. And when Grosskreutz aimed his firearm around Rittenhouse’s head, Rittenhouse shot again.

Grosskreutz’s possession of a gun was a key piece of information omitted from his testimony and the prosecution’s statement, said Rittenhouse’s attorney Richards, who maintained the circumstances demanded Rittenhouse protect himself, and he was well within reason to do so.

The trial is scheduled to proceed tomorrow.

About The Author

Ankita Joshi is a second-year student at the University of San Francisco, pursuing a major in International Studies and a minor in Political Science. She is originally from Sacramento, CA.

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  1. Keith Olson

    We’ll see how this all plays out but from watching the videos at the time of the shootings Rittenhouse has a fairly good chance of getting off using the ‘self defense’ defense.

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