MADISON, Wis. — Attorneys in Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial sparred for the last time Monday during closing arguments, with prosecutors painting Rittenhouse as an inexperienced instigator and defense lawyers insisting the Illinois man fired in self-defense.
Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz during street unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020. He has claimed self-defense, while prosecutors have argued he was an inexperienced and overmatched teen who provoked violence by showing up with a rifle.
Here are some takeaways from Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger and defense attorney Mark Richards’ closings:
Binger painted Rittenhouse as a fraud. He said Rittenhouse told people at the protest that he was an emergency medical technician when he was really just a lifeguard.
“This is an emergency situation,” Binger said. “Everybody’s anticipating violence. Everybody’s prepared for people to be hurt, harmed, injured. And yet the defendant’s going to go there and walk around claiming to be a medic. He’s like a quack doctor practicing without a license that puts lives at risk . . . He wrapped up an ankle and I think maybe helped somebody who got a cut on their hand. Yeah. On the other hand, he killed two people, blew off Gaige Grosskreutz’s arm.”
Binger also portrayed Rittenhouse as an active shooter and said people in the crowd had a right to stop him. He said Rittenhouse denied shooting Rosenbaum when Grosskreutz and another man, Jason Lackowski, asked him what happened immediately after the shots were fired.
“The crowd sees the defendant running with a gun. He’s lying to them. He still has the gun,” Binger said. “It is entirely reasonable for that crowd to believe at that moment that he is a threat to kill again. I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, that in this situation, the crowd has the right to try and stop an active shooter. They have a right to protect themselves. The defendant is not the only one in the world who has the right to self-defense.”
Richards said calling Rittenhouse an active shooter is “BS” and if he didn’t know better he would think Binger was a “whiny defense lawyer.”
“Every person who was shot was attacking Kyle: One with a skateboard, one with his hands, one with his feet, one with a gun,” Richards said. “My client does not have to take a beating from the hands of this mob, or from the hands of Mr. Rosenbaum.”
Binger tried to get jurors to see Rittenhouse, who lived in nearby Antioch, Illinois, as one of a horde of outsiders who came to Kenosha to play soldier during the protest, ignoring roadblocks, curfew orders and closed interstate exits.
“These guys with the AR-15s are just wannabe soldiers acting tough, trying to manufacture some personal connection to this event, furthering their own personal agenda, just a small part of the deluge of chaos tourists we saw here in Kenosha trying to feed off of what we were going through, despite everything we did to try and tell them, go away, stay out.”
Richards countered that Rittenhouse came to the city to help, noting that he helped clean graffiti off a high school before the shootings.
“Kyle feels for this community,” he said.
Binger focused largely on Rosenbaum’s actions, trying to counter Rittenhouse’s assertions that Rosenbaum was causing trouble all night, swinging a chain, demanding people shoot him, spewing racial slurs and setting fires. Binger described Rosenbaum as a small man — he stood at 5 feet 4 — with a “Napoleon complex” but he was harmless.
“Oh, let me tell you all the awful things Joseph Rosenbaum did,” the prosecutor said. “He tipped over a Port-a-Potty that had no one in it. He swung a chain. He lit a . . . Dumpster on fire . . . Oh, and he said some bad words. He said the N-word. If he were alive today . . . I’d probably try and prosecute him for arson. But I can’t because the defendant killed him. But that’s the way we deal with people that do these things. When you commit arson, we prosecute you. We don’t execute you in the street.”
Richards called Rosenbaum “irrational and crazy” and said he chased Rittenhouse down until he had him cornered. If Rosenbaum had taken Rittenhouse’s gun from him he would have shot others, Richards said.
“Mr. Rosenbaum made a fatal mistake that day, chasing Kyle Rittenhouse into the corner,” Richards said. “He ran as far as he could, and he shot, four times in three-quarters of a second . . I’m glad (Rittenhouse) shot him because if Joseph Rosenbaum got that gun I don’t for a minute believe he wouldn’t have used it against somebody else . . . Mr. Rosenbaum was hell-bent on causing trouble that night.”
WOULD YOU HAVE DONE THIS?
Binger wrapped up his arguments by asking jurors to ask themselves if they would have reacted like Rittenhouse in the same situation.
“Would a reasonable person have done the same thing?” Binger said. “Would you have engaged in the reckless conduct that led to this course of events? Would you have gone out after curfew with an AR-15 looking for trouble? Would you have aimed at other people? Would you have tried to use the gun to protect an empty car lot? No reasonable person would have done these things. ”
10 MILLION REASONS TO LIE
Richards focused on Grosskreutz’s testimony that he didn’t know his own pistol had a round in the chamber when he ran up to Rittenhouse. Grosskreutz has filed a lawsuit against the city of Kenosha alleging police conspired with armed militia the night he was shot; he’s seeking $10 million.
“Grosskreutz won’t say anything that puts him in a bad light,” Richards said. “Grosskreutz’s the person who has 10 million reasons to lie.”
Richards argued that the state’s witnesses actually helped Rittenhouse’s case, pointing out that a police detective seemed to agree that Rosenbaum came out of hiding to chase Rittenhouse; a forensic pathologist testified that Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum at close range, within 4 feet, bolstering the defense argument that Rosenbaum reached for Rittenhouse’s rifle; and others in Rittenhouse’s group testified they had permission to guard the car dealership.
One member of Rittenhouse’s group, JoAnn Fiedler, testified that she never saw Rittenhouse act inappropriately toward anybody, Richards recounted for jurors.
HOCUS POCUS OUT OF FOCUS
Richards lambasted the prosecution’s use of an enlarged photo taken from drone video that a state crime lab analyst testified he took 20 hours to produce. Prosecutors said the enlarged image shows Rittenhouse pointing his gun at protesters, an act they say provoked the series of events that resulted in Rittenhouse killing two people and wounding a third.
“What he did for those 20 hours is hocus pocus,” Richards said in urging jurors to reject consideration of the image. “And he makes an exhibit that is out of focus.”
Prosecutors said it took the analyst 20 hours to work on the entire video, not just the image that was enlarged.
Richards said Binger’s office never reassessed their case after video evidence showed Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. He said prosecutors want to hold someone responsible for bringing “terror” to Kenosha’s streets.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a political case . . . but the district attorney’s office is marching forward with this case because they need somebody to be responsible. They need somebody to . . . say, he did it, he’s the person who brought terror to Kenosha. Kyle Rittenhouse is not that individual.”