KENOSHA, Wis. - Kyle Rittenhouse provoked bloodshed on the streets of Kenosha by bringing a semi-automatic rifle to a protest and menacing others, and when the shooting stopped, he walked off like a "hero in a Western," a prosecutor said in closing arguments Monday at Rittenhouse’s murder trial.
But Rittenhouse’s lawyer countered that the shooting started after the young man was ambushed by a "crazy person" that night and feared his gun was going to be wrested away and used to kill him. Defense attorney Mark Richards said Rittenhouse acted in self-defense.
After a full day of arguments, the jurors were told to return Tuesday morning for the start of deliberations in the case that has stirred fierce debate in the U.S. over guns, vigilantism and law and order.
Eighteen jurors have been hearing the case; the 12 who will decide Rittenhouse's fate and the six who will be designated alternates will be determined by drawing numbers from a lottery drum.
In closing arguments, prosecutor Thomas Binger said Rittenhouse was a "wannabe soldier" and was "looking for trouble that night." Binger repeatedly showed the jury drone video that he said depicted Rittenhouse pointing the AR-style weapon at demonstrators.
Kenosha County Prosecutor Thomas Binger
"This is the provocation. This is what starts this incident," the prosecutor declared.
He told the jury: "You lose the right to self-defense when you’re the one who brought the gun, when you are the one creating the danger, when you’re the one provoking other people."
Rittenhouse, now 18, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge against him, first-degree intentional homicide, which is Wisconsin’s top murder count.
Binger zeroed in on the killing of 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, who was the first man gunned down that night and whose shooting set in motion the ones that followed. The prosecutor repeatedly called it murder, saying it was unjustified.
The prosecutor reminded jurors that Rittenhouse testified he knew Rosenbaum was unarmed. Binger also said there is no video to support the defense claim that Rosenbaum threatened to kill Rittenhouse.
Binger disputed the contention that Rosenbaum was trying to grab Rittenhouse’s rifle. "Mr. Rosenbaum is not even within arm’s reach when the first shot occurs," Binger said. He rejected the claim that Rittenhouse had no choice but to shoot, saying he could have run away.
And Binger argued that once Rosenbaum was wounded, he was not even capable of taking away the gun, which was strapped to Rittenhouse’s body, since he was falling to the ground with a fractured pelvis. Rittenhouse kept firing, delivering what the prosecutor called the "kill shot" to Rosenbaum’s back.
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