The defense rested Thursday in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the man who fatally shot two people and injured another during demonstrations in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year over the police shooting of a Black man in the back.
Both sides are expected to conclude with closing arguments, which could begin Friday.
Regardless of the outcome, many might remember the trial for the shenanigans of Judge Bruce Schroeder. The longtime jurist set the tone early for controversy when he ruled that those whom Rittenhouse shot could be referred to as “rioters,” “arsonists” or “looters,” but not “victims.”
The judge, who called a prosecutor a liar in front of the jury, proved combative with the prosecution team, and he asked the jury to give a defense witness a round of applause following testimony.
He also threatened to take under consideration a defense motion to declare a mistrial with prejudice, meaning that Rittenhouse could not be tried in the future.
Judge Schroeder’s cellphone was also identified as having a Make America Great Again ringtone, and he also invoked Bible scriptures and made an offensive and off-color remark about Asian food.
Rittenhouse himself took the stand Wednesday and calmly provided his account of what happened on the night of the Aug. 25, 2020, protests, which were in response to a Kenosha police officer shooting Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old African American man, multiple times in the back during an arrest attempt.
Armed with an AR-15-style rifle, Rittenhouse testified that he arrived in Kenosha with a group of other armed citizens who sought to keep peace and aid victims of violence.
But the 18-year-old later began sobbing, which forced the judge to declare a short recess.
Though no tears were evident, and the timing of his sobbing appeared odd after methodically describing events, Rittenhouse quickly composed himself and continued his testimony, claiming he was the victim of an ambush on the night of the shootings.
Rittenhouse, 18, ultimately shot three people, killing two of them. The shooter and all three victims are white.
One of the men who died, Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, had become upset with the teenager and threw a bag at him, Rittenhouse testified.
“He was just mad about something,” Rittenhouse said about Rosenbaum.
During the altercation, Rittenhouse fell and shot at three people whom he said confronted him.
“He’s no longer a threat to me,” Rittenhouse said of Rosenbaum, claiming that another person had their hands up and didn’t pose a threat, so he didn’t shoot him.
Rittenhouse then shot Anthony Huber, 26, as the two struggled for control of Rittenhouse’s weapon.
Rittenhouse testified that while he was still on the ground, he saw a pistol in the hand of an approaching Gaige Grosskreutz and reacted by shooting him.
Grosskreutz, 27, the lone survivor of Rittenhouse’s shooting victims, testified earlier this week that he drew his weapon in belief that Rittenhouse was an active shooter.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of shootings, is charged as an adult with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and attempted homicide, as well as recklessly endangering the safety of two others and possessing a dangerous weapon while younger than 18.
If convicted of the intentional homicide charge, he faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
Rittenhouse, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, maintains he acted in self-defense.
“I did what I had to do to stop the person who was attacking me,” he said Wednesday under cross-examination by prosecutor Thomas Binger.
“I used deadly force to stop the threat,” he said.
Judge Schroeder halted Binger’s cross-examination, and angrily questioned the prosecutor’s tactics.
Schroeder and Binger engaged in a testy back-and-forth as Rittenhouse’s attorneys threatened to demand a mistrial with prejudice, with the judge admonishing the prosecutor.
“Don’t get brazen with me,” Schroeder asserted.