You probably haven’t seen much about this on the news, but the Kyle Rittenhouse trial has begun. So far, the trial hasn’t gotten much attention, probably because the judge “double-tapped” the prosecution in pretrial. The judge ruled for the defense and against the prosecution on how the people Rittenhouse shot could be described in court. The prosecution CANNOT refer to them as “victims,” but the defense CAN refer to them as rioters, looters or arsonists IF they can establish that the individuals took part in any of those activities.
Rittenhouse, now 18, is charged with shooting three men, two fatally, in the summer of 2020. The one-time police youth cadet had gone to Kenosha with a rifle and a medical kit in what he said was an effort to safeguard property from the demonstrations that broke out over the shooting of Jacob Blake.
Rittenhouse could get life in prison if convicted in the politically and racially polarizing case that has stirred furious debate over self-defense, vigilantism, the right to bear arms and the racial unrest that erupted around the U.S. after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the Jacob Blake shooting that sparked the unrest in Kenosha, WI.
So, why aren’t you hearing more about the case? Well, besides the case being weak and the judge’s rulings making it weaker, there is no racial component now. Rittenhouse is White, and so were the people he shot. Prosecutors have portrayed Rittenhouse as the instigator of the bloodshed, while his lawyer has argued that he acted in self-defense, suggesting among other things that Rittenhouse feared his weapon would be taken away and used against him.
The first shooting, Joseph Rosenbaum
On Thursday, Richie McGinniss, who was recording events on a cellphone that night for the conservative website The Daily Caller, testified that Rosenbaum chased Rittenhouse and was gunned down as he lunged for the young man’s rifle.
“I think it was very clear to me that he was reaching specifically for the weapon,” McGinniss said.
Jason Lackowski, a former Marine who said he took an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to Kenosha last year to help protect property during the violent protests, said Joseph Rosenbaum “asked very bluntly to shoot him” and was “false steppings … to entice someone to do something.” Lackowski got up from the witness stand and demonstrated what he called “false stepping.” He took a small step and slight lurch forward, then stopped.
But Lackowski, who was called as a witness by the prosecution, said he viewed Rosenbaum as a “babbling idiot” and turned his back and ignored him.
Also Thursday, Ryan Balch, a former Army infantryman who also carried a rifle that night and walked around patrolling the streets with Rittenhouse, testified that Rosenbaum was “hyper-aggressive and acting out in a violent manner,” including trying to set fires and throwing rocks.
Balch said he got between Rosenbaum and another man while Rosenbaum was trying to start a fire, and Rosenbaum got angry, shouting, “If I catch any of you guys alone tonight I’m going to f—- kill you!”
Balch said Rittenhouse was within earshot and that he believed the threat was aimed at both of them.
The Rittenhouse Jury
20 people — 12 jurors and eight alternates — were selected. The judge said he would decide at the end of the trial which ones are alternates and which ones will deliberate. The 20 consist of 11 women and nine men.
One of the jurors is a gun-owning woman with a high school education who said she was so afraid during the protests that she pulled her cars to the back of her house and made sure her doors were locked. She said she went downtown in the aftermath and cried.
Another woman chosen is a special education teacher who expressed anxiety about being on the jury: “I figure either way this goes you’re going to have half the country upset with you and they react poorly.”
Another juror said he owns a gun and has it for “home defense.”
One juror is a pharmacist who said that she was robbed at gunpoint in 2012 but that it would have no effect on her ability to weigh the evidence in this case.
Among those dismissed were a man who said he was at the site of the protests when “all that happened” and a woman who said she watched a livestream video of the events and wasn’t sure if she could put aside what she saw.
One person was dropped from the case after she said she believes in the Biblical injunction “Thou shall not kill” even in cases of self-defense.
Prosecutor Thomas Binger also moved to dismiss a woman who said that she has a biracial granddaughter who participated in some of the protests and that she could not be impartial. Rittenhouse’s attorneys had no objection.
Before court resumed Friday, the judge granted the request of a pregnant juror to be dismissed because she was experiencing discomfort. She was the second juror dismissed: A retired man was dropped from the case Thursday after making a joke about Blake’s shooting.
Eighteen people remain on the panel: Twelve will be designated to decide the case; the rest are alternates.