The prosecution at the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse yesterday accused the teenager of provoking the “entire incident” that led to him shooting three men during volatile protests over race and policing in Wisconsin last year.
r Rittenhouse (18) is charged with killing Joseph Rosenbaum (36) and Anthony Huber (26), and for wounding Gaige Grosskreutz (28) on August 25, 2020.
The shootings took place in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during protests – marred by rioting and looting – that followed the police shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, who was left paralysed from the waist down.
Mr Rittenhouse, who has pleaded not guilty and testified last week that he acted in self-defence, faces life in prison if convicted.
Kicking off the prosecution’s closing arguments, Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger told the jury to ignore Mr Rittenhouse’s argument that he was attacked and fired his semi-automatic AR-15-style rifle in self-defence.
Instead, Mr Binger said, Mr Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, instigated the fatal clashes by brandishing his weapon.
Mr Binger tried to demonstrate this by raising the gun in front of the jury.
“That is what provokes this entire incident,” he said. “If you are the one who is threatening others you lose the right to self-defence.”
The defence was set to follow with its final address to the jury and was expected to highlight the evidence presented at trial supporting Mr Rittenhouse’s argument that he was attacked. The trial is the most closely watched case involving a civilian’s right to self-defence since George Zimmerman was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in 2013.
Like Zimmerman, Mr Rittenhouse has emerged as a divisive figure, viewed as heroic by some conservatives who favour expansive gun rights and as a symbol of an out-of-control American gun culture by many on the left.
In his testimony the teenager, at times losing his composure and crying, said he did not want to kill anyone that night.
For the prosecution, Mr Binger said Mr Rittenhouse had gone out of his way to travel to Kenosha from Antioch, Illinois, during the protests, one of a series of demonstrations in 2020 against racism and police use of force.
“This isn’t a situation where he was protecting his home or his family,” Mr Binger said.