The trial to hold accused murderer Kyle Rittenhouse accountable for his deadly shooting spree during a racial justice protest in Wisconsin last year bears all the hallmarks of a made-for-TV movie, which is likely why it’s being live-streamed for the world to see play out on a public stage.
Only in this case the drama unfolding in the Milwaukee suburb of Kenosha is far from fiction and rooted in the cowardly police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot in the back seven times and ultimately left paralyzed from the waist down. It was that instance of brutal police violence that spurred the very protest that Rittenhouse — who was 17 years old at the time — found himself in the middle of after illegally arming himself with an assault rifle, crossing state lines from his home in Illinois (he was driven by his mother, naturally) and patrolling the streets of Kenosha in a purported effort to protect local businesses from looting on the night of Aug. 25, 2020.
That’s when he claims he was ambushed by three protesters: Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, of Kenosha; Anthony Huber, 26, of Silver Lake, Wisconsin; and Gaige Grosskreutz, now 27, of West Allis, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse, who has been described as a “wannabe cop,” shot all three, killing Rosenbaum and Huber and injuring Grosskreutz, leaving him as the sole survivor from the vigilante shootings. Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty and claims he was simply defending himself.
The case is now before a jury that is comprised of 20 people, including alternates, all but one of whom are white people. To give you a better idea of the type of folks who were chosen to decide Rittenhouse’s fate, one of the jurors — described as an “older white male” — managed to get himself kicked off the jury after prosecutors heard him tell a “joke” about Blake’s shooting to a courtroom deputy, of all people. That man is gone, but how many remain who harbor a similar sense of humor?
Building off that same energy, the judge presiding over the case has revealed himself to be quirky at best and a suspected white supremacist sympathizer to the defense at worst.
Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce E. Schroeder’s controversial rulings ahead of jury selection appeared to give preferential treatment to Rittenhouse and his lawyers. That apparent deference included ruling that Huber, Rosenbaum and Grosskreutz can’t be referred to as “victims.” However, Schroeder said he would allow the two deceased men to be “referred to as rioters, looters or arsonists or other pejorative terms,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported at the time.
(To be sure, Rittenhouse’s shooting victims were neither rioting nor looting. All three have been described as activists in their own rights who traveled to Kenosha to join the protests against Blake’s shooting. Grosskreutz has since sued the city of Kenosha, Kenosha County, the former chief of police, acting chief of police and county sheriff for allegedly facilitating an environment that allowed vigilante violence because they knew militia members were arriving and did nothing to dissuade them.)
Schroeder also ruled that only the defense can refer to Rittenhouse by his first name during the trial. The judge said he typically makes the court refer to adults by their last name. Rittenhouse has since turned 18 years old is an adult for all intents and purposes — except in Schroeder’s courtroom.
Earlier this year, Schroeder extended more sympathetic treatment to Rittenhouse that defies legal standards by inexplicably ruling that the teenager did not violate the terms of his bond by concealing his address from the court. Thus, demands by a prosecutor to increase Rittenhouse’s bond and issue a warrant for his arrest were denied. Schroeder said during the February hearing that he didn’t think doing so would be lawful.
It was in that context that Rittenhouse’s murder trial was being conducted in Kenosha. Keep reading to learn more about everybody involved in the case.
1. Kyle RittenhouseSource:Getty
The smug-faced teenage murder defendant was allegedly inspired to shoot and kill people by Donald Trump, according to reports.
Rittenhouse was seen in the front row of a Trump rally months before he wound up charged with two counts of first-degree murder. The pro-police 17-year-old who was initially linked to law enforcement through social media reports showing he attended a rally for Trump in Iowa on January 2, 2020. The report was based on a video apparently recorded by Rittenhouse himself from an intimate vantage point and posted to his TikTok account. The video was simply accompanied by two words: “Trump rally!”
There was also video footage on social media purporting to show “the Kenosha shooter being offered water from the Kenosha police” and claiming “The police is working with the shooting militia.”
Rittenhouse was arrested on Aug. 26, 2020, and ultimately charged with five felony counts and one misdemeanor: first-degree reckless homicide for killing Rosenbaum; first-degree recklessly endangering safety for firing his gun toward two people, including Richard McGiniss, who testified as a witness at the trial; first-degree intentional homicide for killing Huber; attempted first-degree homicide for shooting Grosskreutz; use of a dangerous weapon; and the misdemeanor of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.
If he’s found guilty, Rittenhouse could be sentenced to life in prison.
2. Judge Bruce SchroederSource:Getty
To give you a better idea of just how sympathetic — and not impartial — a judge Schroeder has been, he ruled that Rittenhouse did not commit a serious crime when violating the terms of his $2 million bond that the teenager agreed to by not fully disclosing his location ahead of trial. Schroeder said Rittenhouse had been present at every court appearance and abided by all other conditions imposed upon him.
3. Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas BingerSource:Getty
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, whose office is prosecuting Rittenhouse, is the one who successfully pushed for the removal of the juror who told the Jacob Blake “joke” to a courtroom deputy.
In his opening statement, Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger spoke openly of how chaotic the Jacob Blake protests were while also stressing that the only person who killed anyone during them was Rittenhouse, who he called a “tourist” in Kenosha. He has stressed that Rosenbaum was unarmed when Rittenhouse shot him in the back and killed him.
“Like moths to a flame, tourists from outside our community were drawn to the chaos here in Kenosha,” Binger said.
He added: “The evidence will show that hundreds of people were out on the streets experiencing chaos and violence and the only person who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse.”
4. Mark Richards, defense attorneySource:Getty
Mark Richards, Rittenhouse’s attorney, has sought to blame the victims for their own deaths and injury. He even went so far as to use the N-word aloud in court, claiming that Rosenbaum invited the teenage gunman to, “Shoot me, n*****!”
Richards also showed to the court photos and video footage that he claimed proves Rittenhouse was the actual victim being attacked and left with no choice but to defend his life by taking others’.
Contrasting the defense with the prosecution, Richards said, “We have two very different outlooks on the events of August 25, 2020.”
5. Kyle Rittenhouse’s familySource:Getty
Kyle Rittenhouse’s mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, left, and his sister, Faith Rittenhouse, have been attending the trial on a daily basis. Wendy Rittenhouse is the one who drove her son from their apartment in Antioch, Illinois, to Kenosha, where his father lives about a 30-minute drive away. She has somehow avoided any charges of aiding and abetting the alleged murders.
6. Koerri WashingtonSource:Getty
Social media influencer Koerri Washington testified early in the trial. He was live-streaming the protest and provided testimony for the prosecution about the night of the shooting. Washington said he noticed Rittenhouse, in particular, because he looked so young to be armed with such a firearm. He said he was acting “nervous” while “chain-smoking cigarettes.”
7. Kenosha Police Department Detective Martin HowardSource:Getty
Kenosha Police Department Detective Martin Howard, a 10-year veteran of the department, testified that on the night in question, his job was to go to gas stations and make sure the pumps were deactivated in order to prevent people from using the fuel as explosives. When Binger asked him if any of the footage shown in court suggested Rosenbaum was armed, Howard said no.
Under cross-examination, Richards questioned whether Howard violated protocol.
Howard testified that protester Joshua Ziminski fired the first shot into the air, prompting Richards to say that made Rittenhouse feel as though he was under attack.
8. Corey Chirafisi, defense attorneySource:Getty
Corey Chirafisi, an attorney for Kyle Rittenhouse, is part of the defense team.
9. Ryan BalchSource:Getty
Ryan Balch, the man seen with Rittenhouse in a widely shared photo of the two of them dressed in military-style garb while wielding assault rifles on that fateful August night, testified that he thought the teenager was 19 years old. The former Army infantryman and admitted member of the “Booglaloo Bois,” a loose collective of far-right anti-government militiamen. Balch testified that Rosenbaum threatened him and Rittenhouse by saying: “you know, if I catch any of you guys alone tonight, I’m going to fucking kill you.”
10. Richie McGinnissSource:Getty
Richie McGinniss, the chief video director for far-right extremist website the Daily Caller who was on the scene when Rittenhouse shot and killed Rosenbaum. McGinniss testified that Rosenbaum yelled and advanced toward Rittenhouse before he was shot. He testified that “it’s not clear what would have happened” if Rittenhouse didn’t shoot Rosenbaum.
11. Dominick BlackSource:Getty
Dominick Black, the man who bought the assault rifle that Rittenhouse used during his deadly shooting rampage, was dating the defendant’s sister, McKenzie Rittenhouse, at the time. Rittenhouse was not legally allowed to own the gun. Black testified that the gun stayed at his father’s home. He is charged with two counts of providing a dangerous weapon to someone under 18, resulting in death.
Black testified: “I didn’t believe the gunshots were actually his until I got a phone call, and…[Rittenhouse] just said, ‘I shot somebody, I shot somebody.'”
Black testified that Rittenhouse “said he had to do it, it was self-defense, people were trying to hurt him.”
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