Defense builds on self-defense argument

November 11, 2021
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KENOSHA, Wis. — After an emotional day of testimony and a call for a mistrial in Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial, his defense attorneys continued to build their self-defense case Thursday, calling a use-of-force expert, media commentator and police officer to the stand.

Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with killing two men and injuring a third during chaotic protests in this Wisconsin city south of Milwaukee after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in August 2020.

The testimony Thursday came a day after Rittenhouse’s attorneys asked for a mistrial with prejudice due to questions from prosecutor Thomas Binger. Judge Bruce Schroeder said he would rule later, allowing Binger time to respond and cite case law.

Jurors on Thursday heard from John Black, an expert in use of force from Oregon ​​who said approximately one minute and 20 seconds passed from the time of Rittenhouse’s first shot  to his final shot. The amount of time Rittenhouse spent firing each shot took less than seven seconds, Black said.

Tears, yelling and calls for a mistrial:What dramatic day could mean for Rittenhouse murder trial

Prosecutors and the defense argued over how much video Black would be allowed to show. Black said he analyzed videos filmed in Kenosha on the night of the shootings to understand the timing of events.

Binger said the judge previously ruled Black would only be allowed to establish the timing of the shots being fired, and none of the lead up, but Schroeder allowed Black to show a longer section. Prosecutors previously objected to Black including any opinion about whether Rittenhouse acted reasonably in using deadly force on the night of the shootings. Schroeder agreed the jury can decide that for itself.

The defense and prosecution also questioned a Kenosha police officer, Brittni Bray, on shell casings she collected from the scene of the shootings of Anthony Huber, who was killed, and Grosskreutz, who was injured. She also testified about how to clear a jammed AR-15 rifle. Bray said both a live and spent round could cause the jam.

More from Wednesday’s emotional hearing:Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial turns heated as defense demands a mistrial

Drew Hernandez, a media commentator who filmed video from Kenosha, including of the fatal shooting of Joseph Rosenbaum, also took the stand. Hernandez works for Real America’s Voice, a right-wing site that’s home to a daily talk show from Steve Bannon, a former advisor to former President Donald Trump.

Hernandez said he traveled to Kenosha from out of state to film “riots” from “BLM” and “Antifa.” He said he in “no way, shape or form” did he see Rittenhouse acting aggressively on the night of the shootings.

Before a lunch break, Binger asked Hernandez about an attorney Hernandez hired to submit video he recorded from Kenosha to both sides in the trial, but the defense objected to the question. The judge said he would allow Binger to continue the line of questioning but it would be “closely watched.”

Thursday was far less emotional than the shouting and crying that occurred in the courtroom as Rittenhouse testified a day earlier.

Rittenhouse broke down as he recounted the events leading up to the shootings and how he said he feared for his life.

“I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself,” said Rittenhouse, who was 17 when he traveled to Kenosha and agreed to help a friend protect a car business following nights of protest.

Rittenhouse said he felt cornered as Rosenbaum chased him and grabbed his rifle. After shooting him, Rittenhouse said “a mob” followed him and that he was struck by a skateboard and a rock. He shot Huber after being hit a second time with the skateboard, and then shot Grosskreutz after he approached him with a pistol.

How it happened:A visual timeline of violence in Kenosha after police shooting of Jacob Blake

Previous testimony had corroborated many of the details Rittenhouse laid out, and even the state’s witnesses did little to undermine the defense’s claims.

During cross-examination Wednesday, Rittenhouse said he used deadly force but did so only to prevent the men from attacking him.

Binger harped on why Rittenhouse believed he needed an AR-15 that night and the amount of risk he perceived in the crowd.

However, some lines of Binger’s questioning drew sharp criticism from Schroeder and prompted the motion for a mistrial with prejudice, which would prevent Rittenhouse from being tried again.

Binger noted on how Rittenhouse’s testimony was his first time sharing his “side of the story” and suggested Rittenhouse may be tailoring his testimony to previous videos, witness statements and media coverage. Defense attorney Mark Richards objected, saying it was Rittenhouse’s right to remain silent and the prosecutor shouldn’t comment on that right.

Later, Binger sought to bring up a video from 15 days before the shooting in which Rittenhouse said of CVS shoplifters: “I wish I had my AR, I’d fire some rounds at them.” 

Who’s who:Here’s the judge, lawyers and key witnesses to watch at Kyle Rittenhouse trial

Binger had previously tried to introduce it as evidence, but Schroeder said he was leaning toward not allowing it. After Schroeder sent the jury out of the courtroom, he berated Binger for bringing it up.

“Don’t get brazen with me!” Schroeder yelled as he told Binger not to continue the line of questioning. At a later point, Binger apologized and said he had brought it up in “good faith,” thinking Schroeder’s ruling had left the door open for it to be introduced if the evidence led to it. Schroeder replied: “I don’t believe you.”

Rittenhouse is also charged with reckless endangerment and possessing a firearm as a minor. A curfew violation charge was dismissed Tuesday.

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