KENOSHA, Wis. – A day after emotional testimony and a call for a mistrial in Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial, his defense attorneys rested Thursday after building their self-defense case by calling a use-of-force expert, media commentator and police officer to the stand.
Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed the jury until Monday, when closing arguments are expected to be held.
Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with killing two men and injuring a third during chaotic protests in this city south of Milwaukee after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in August 2020.
The judge said Thursday both sides would have a total of two hours and 30 minutes to make their closing arguments on Monday and warned that if either attorney went over “I may tell you to just sit down in the middle of your sentence.”
Wednesday, Rittenhouse’s attorneys asked for a mistrial with prejudice because of questions from prosecutor Thomas Binger. Schroeder said he would allow Binger time to respond and cite case law before ruling.
Jurors heard Thursday 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.
In contrast, prosecutors have stressed a much longer window for understanding the shootings. They have argued that the chain of events occurred over hours, starting with Rittenhouse’s decision to go to a volatile protest with a rifle.
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Prosecutors and the defense argued over how much video Black would be allowed to show. Black said he analyzed videos recorded in Kenosha on the night of the shootings to understand the timing of events.
Binger said the judge had ruled Black would be allowed to establish only the timing of the shots being fired, none of the lead-up, but Schroeder allowed Black to show a longer section. Prosecutors 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 questioned a Kenosha police officer, Brittni Bray, about shell casings she collected from the scene of the shootings of Anthony Huber, who was killed, and Gaige Grosskreutz, who was injured. She testified about how to clear a jammed AR-15 rifle. Bray said both a live and spent round could cause the jam.
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Drew Hernandez, a media commentator who recorded 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 adviser to President Donald Trump.
Hernandez said he traveled to Kenosha from out of state to film “riots” from “BLM” (Black Lives Matter) and “antifa.” He said that in “no way, shape or form” did he see Rittenhouse act aggressively on the night of the shootings.
Before a lunch break, Binger asked 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.”
The afternoon was marked with testimony about the accuracy of photo enlargement.
The defense put witnesses on the stand across 2 1/2 days. Prosecutors previously presented testimony over about five days.
After closing arguments, names will be drawn to decide which 12 members of the jury panel will deliberate and which ones will be dismissed as alternates. Eighteen people have been hearing the case. The panel appeared overwhelmingly white.
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 described how 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 after nights of protest.
Binger pressed Rittenhouse on why he believed he needed an AR-15 that night and the amount of risk he perceived in the crowd.
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.
Rittenhouse is also charged with reckless endangerment and possessing a firearm as a minor. A curfew violation charge was dismissed Tuesday.
Contributing: The Associated Press