KENOSHA, Wis. — Jurors in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial were deliberating on a verdict for a third day Thursday while the judge considers a request from the defense for a mistrial.
A key piece of evidence in the prosecution’s case — a drone video that shows Rittenhouse fatally shootingthe first man he fired at on the night of Aug. 25, 2020 — was called into question Wednesday when Rittenhouse’s defense lawyers said they received a lower quality version of the clip.
Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide stemming from shootings that occurred during a violent night of protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of the most serious charge.
The mistrial request was the latest turn in a dramatic trial that has lasted over a week and features dozens of witnesses and videos. Rittenhouse and his lawyers say he was defending himself, while the state says the then 17-year-old was looking for a fight he provoked when he brought his AR-15 style rifle downtown, creating an active shooter situation.
Updates from Wednesday:Defense asks for mistrial over video
Judge Bruce Schroeder, who has drawn both sharp criticism and high praise over how he has handled the case, has yet to rule on the mistrial motion. He also has not ruled on a separate defense motion for a mistrial with prejudice, meaning Rittenhouse could not be retried.
Rittenhouse fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz during the tense night of protests. The unrest came after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man who was left paralyzed from the waist down. The officer was cleared of any federal or state charges.
Rittenhouse is also charged with two reckless endangerment counts, and the jury was instruction to consider lesser included charges on certain counts.
Lawyers spar over drone video
After jurors sent a question to Schroder on Wednesday about how to view the video evidence, the lawyers got into a contentious debate over the key drone video.
Defense attorney Corey Chirafisi called for a mistrial in the afternoon, saying the issue had to do with basic fairness and that they didn’t realize the clip was a lower quality until Friday when both sides were debating jury instructions.
The video in question is central to the state’s claim that Rittenhouse provoked the attack, which would cast doubt over whether he could claim self defense. Prosecutors say the video shows Rittenhouse raise his rifle at a couple who had been with Rosenbaum much of the night. That action, they say, provoked Rosenbaum to chase Rittenhouse, who shot the unarmed Rosenbaum four times after they had run across a car lot.
The defense said that’s not what the video showed, adding that Rosenbaum had been acting aggressively and irrationally all night, threatening to kill Rittenhouse if he caught him alone.
The video didn’t come into play in the trial until Nov. 5, when a former employee from the the owner of the company that operated the dronedropped it off with a detective, Assistant District Attorney James Kraus said Wednesday. At some point in the process of sharing the videowith defense attorneys, the file was condensed, thereby lowering its quality.
However, Kraus cast doubt on the defense’s claim that they didn’t have a higher-quality version, saying Ritenhouse’s former attorney, John Pierce, had shared the drone video last year on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and the footage appeared to be of high resolution.
Jurors were shown the clip during the trial and given a laptop that included it and other videos to review during deliberations. Schroeder also allowed them to watch on a large, high-resolution TV in the courtroom, with everyone else locked out.
However, Schroeder said he has been “very queasy” about the drone video, and expressed his concerns about whether it was technologically sound earlier in the trial.
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Judge has yet to rule on mistrial
Schroeder on Wednesday allowed the jury to continue to view the evidence but said the mistrial requests will have to be addressed if there is a guilty verdict. If Rittenhouse is convicted, the judge could still grant the motion to dismiss with prejudice. Rittenhouse could also appeal over the same issues.
The new mistrial request seemed to indicate a growing defense concern about a possible guilty verdict, something Rittenhouse’s supporters have long discounted as they predicted rapid acquittals.
Defense attorneys had orally requested the mistrial last week. The defense alleged prosecutors improperly commented on Rittenhouse’s right to remain silent and later tried to bring up evidence the judge earlier ruled was not admissible.
In a written version of the request Monday, the defense added concerns about the drone video. Schroeder on Wednesday clarified that he hadn’t yet read the written motion and wanted to give prosecutors time to respond. They had not by Wednesday.
How much prison time could Rittenhouse face?
While Rittenhouse’s most serious charge, first-degree intentional homicide in Huber’s death, includes a mandatory life sentence, he could face lengthy prison time for the other charges, too.
Jurors may consider lesser charges in Huber’s death that could carry up to 60 years in prison, and the first-degree reckless homicide charge in Rosenbaum’s death also carries up to 60 years with an additional five additional years for the “use of a dangerous weapon” modifier.
More on lesser included charges:Rittenhouse jury will consider some lesser charges in fatal shootings. Here’s what that means.
The attempted first-degree intentional homicide of Grosskreutz could also carry a 60-year sentence plus five years for the same weapon modifier, and the jury can consider lesser charges in that count, too.
Each count of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, connected to the unidentified man and the Daily Caller reporter, carries up to 12½ years in prison, plus a five-year weapon modifier.
Contributing: Christal Hayes, USA TODAY; Elliot Hughes and Ashley Luthern, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel