By Simran Chahal
KENOSHA, WI – The Kenosha County Superior Court heard closing arguments in the Rittenhouse homicide trial Monday where the lead prosecutor, Thomas Binger, stated Rittenhouse’s provocation in the shootings does not give him the right to self-defense.
Rittenhouse is charged with homicide in the deaths of two men and injury to a third individual during the Aug. 25, 2020 police brutality demonstration in Kenosha, WI.
Before hearing the closing arguments, the judge explained to the jury that the case rests on a self-defense matter and will be decided accordingly.
Judge Bruce Schroeder stated, “If the elements are present and the defendant was not acting lawfully in self-defense, then you do not need to go any further. You can return your verdict of guilty.”
“If you decide that the defendant acted lawfully in self-defense, you’re done. You can return your verdict of not guilty without considering any of the lesser offenses,” explained the judge.
Binger started the closing arguments as he stated, “This is a case in which a 17-year-old teenager killed two unarmed men and severely wounded a third person with an AR-15. This was not a situation where he was protecting his home or his family. He killed people after traveling from Antioch, Illinois, and staying out after a citywide curfew.
“Although the defendant claimed to be protecting a business that he wasn’t familiar with, the actual killings had nothing to do with that and he spent the entire evening lying about being an EMT (emergency medical technician),” commented Binger.
Binger asked, “Was this a situation where he truly cared about Car Source? …he never heard of [Car Source], never bought anything there, never worked there, and not even its owners were out that night protecting it.”
Binger further asked, “Was he genuinely interested in helping people? He ran around with an AR-15 all night and lying about being an EMT. Does that suggest to you that he is genuinely there to help?
“We have all agreed and I asked you this two weeks ago today: raise your hand if you agree life is more important than property…and you raised your hand,” argued Binger.
Binger expressed, “When you consider this case, look for the truth.”
Binger proceeded to describe the events that occurred at the scene of the crime.
“So, let’s go to Aug, 25, 2020. The defendant came from outside of our community carrying a gun that wasn’t his because he expected and anticipated violence that night,” argued Binger.
“There were a lot of people out that night. Some people stayed at home protecting their homes and their families. Others went to their businesses, boarded them up, and protected them. A lot of those people had weapons,” stated Binger.
Binger said that the jury would see a video of people yelling, shouting, and shoving. “And yet, in this entire sequence of events, from the shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020 to all the way after that…the only person who shot and killed anyone was the defendant,” Binger explained.
“Let’s start with the provocation and murder of Joseph Rosenbaum because it’s all captured on video,” Binger stated.
“As the defendant and Mr. Rosenbaum arrived at the 63rd St. Car Source, Mr. Rosenbaum is ahead of the defendant. As you see in the FBI video when Mr. Rosenbaum starts to run, the defendant starts to run as well at the same time as if he is pursuing him,” Binger described.
“The defendant arrives at the location and you hear him yell, ‘friendly, friendly, friendly’ because he’s aware of the fact that the people that he’s about to confront are hostile to him,” argued Binger.
Binger continued to describe the scene as the defendant put down the fire extinguisher from his left hand, “so he can raise the gun with his right and left hand.” Rosenbaum yells “gun, gun, gun” and “Mr. Rosenbaum charges around to try and stop the defendant from pointing his gun or shooting anyone.
“Under Wisconsin law, you’re not allowed to run around and point your gun at people. This is the provocation. This is what starts this incident,” expressed Binger.
Binger argued, “When the defendant provokes the incident, he loses the right to self-defense. You cannot claim self-defense against a danger you create.”
Binger further explained the incident as Rosenbaum runs behind Rittenhouse after seeing the gun.
“The defendant turns as he is being pursued and points the gun at Mr. Rosenbaum. As he enters the car between the parked cars, he slows and turns. Before Mr. Rosenbaum can even come close, he fires at him. Knocking him to the ground,” explained Binger.
“The defendant has testified. He saw at that moment that there was nothing in Mr. Rosenbaum’s hand. He was unarmed,” expressed Binger.
Binger argued, “There’s this alleged threat that Mr. Rosenbaum made earlier in the evening to kill the defendant. I will debunk that. That did not happen. It is the one fact in this case the defendant wants you to believe, that there is no video of.
“Dr. Kelly has testified the first shot that the defendant fired at Joseph Rosenbaum hit the victim in the right pelvis. Fracturing it. Mr. Rosenbaum was incapacitated at that point. Whatever threat he might have posed, it’s over. There is no further threat. He is falling to the ground and the defendant doesn’t stop after the first shot,” Binger explained.
Binger further commented how the defendant tracked “Mr. Rosenbaum’s body all the way down, firing three more shots. A second shot which goes through Mr. Rosenbaum’s hand. Then, a third and fourth shot. One that grazes the right scalp and one that goes right into Mr. Rosenbaum’s back. That is the kill shot. That is the one that took Mr. Rosenbaum’s life.
“There is no evidence that Mr. Rosenbaum was reaching for the defendant’s gun. After that first shot, there’s no way Mr. Rosenbaum could have taken that gun even if he wanted to. He’s already falling to the ground. He is helpless. He is vulnerable,” Binger asserted.
“The defendant decided to pull the trigger four times. That was his decision and he is responsible for every bullet that comes out of that gun. He does not get a pass for pulling the trigger fast. He could have chosen to stop at the first shot, after the second shot, after the third shot and assessed whether there was a need to keep firing,” argued Binger.
Binger added, “He went four times in 0.76 seconds. The defense has made a big point about this, how fast he fired as if that somehow this excuses him. Exactly the opposite…He controls how quickly he pulls the trigger. He is in control of that decision-making process.
“The only way that you could justify the murder of Joseph Rosenbaum is if you believe that Joseph Rosenbaum was actually reaching for the defendant’s gun…strapped tightly to his chest…as he’s falling to the ground with a fractured right pelvis,” expressed Binger.
“And then, not only all of that, but defendant has to believe Joseph Rosenbaum was going to turn that gun around and use it to kill (him)…Because if he’s not reaching for that gun and he’s not going to use it, there is no valid self-defense claim,” Binger argued.
“When the defendant provokes the situation, he has to exhaust all reasonable means to avoid killing someone. Did he?” asked Binger.
Binger argued that “he’s the one who chose where to run. He chose to run in between those parked cars…If you look at the video, there’s a huge open space in that lot where the defendant could have circled back around…where he could have gotten away.
“He has to exhaust all reasonable means of escape before killing Mr. Rosenbaum,” asserted Binger again.
The case is expected to go to the jury Tuesday.