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Judge sets final ground rules for Rittenhouse trial evidence

The hearing was likely the last before Rittenhouse goes on trial Nov. 1 for the shootings during chaotic demonstrations in Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020.

Kyle Rittenhouse goes on trial November 1, 2021 for shootings in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 25, 2020. 

By Associated Press with additional context by editors at the Chicago Journal.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin judge laid out the final ground rules Monday on what evidence will be allowed when Kyle Rittenhouse goes on trial next week for shooting three people during what some called a protest against police brutality and others called a dangerous riot, ruling he'll permit testimony from the defense's use-of-force expert and on how police welcomed Rittenhouse and others carrying guns during the demonstration.[1]

The hearing was likely the last before Rittenhouse goes on trial Nov. 1 for the shootings during chaotic demonstrations in Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020, two days after a white police officer in that city shot a black man, Jacob Blake, in the back while responding to a domestic disturbance in which Mr. Blake was in violation of his restraining order and had a warrant out for his arrest, began resisting arrest by the police officers, and appeared to be attempting to leave the scene with his children in the vehicle and reaching inside the vehicle while carrying a knife. Jcaob Blake claims he was merely attempting to put his pocket knife away inside the vehicle.[2]

Rittenhouse, 18, of Antioch, Illinois, was among a number of people who responded to calls on social media to take up arms and come to Kenosha to respond to the protests/riots. Rittenhouse, who is white, is charged with homicide and other crimes in the fatal shootings of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and the wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz, all also white.

Rittenhouse's attorneys want use-of-force expert John Black to testify that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense.[3] Prosecutors have asked Judge Bruce Schroeder to block Black's testimony, arguing that jurors don't need an expert to understand what happened that night.

Schroeder told the attorneys that Black wouldn't be allowed to testify about what Rittenhouse was thinking when he pulled the trigger or whether he definitively acted in self-defense.

Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger said if Schroeder allowed Black to testify only about the timeline of events that night he wouldn't call his own expert to the stand. Defense attorney Mark Richards agreed to the deal.

Binger asked Schroeder to bar a video that shows police telling Rittenhouse and other armed militia members on the streets that they appreciated their presence and tossing Rittenhouse a bottle of water. The prosecutor said the video would transform the trial into a referendum on police procedure that night when it isn't relevant.

"This is a case about what the defendant did that night," Binger said. "I'm concerned this will be turned into a trial about what law enforcement did or didn't do that night."

Defense attorney Corey Chirafisi argued the video shows that police felt Rittenhouse wasn't acting recklessly. Binger countered that the shootings happened after Rittenhouse interacted with the police, but Schroeder decided to allow the video.

"If the jury is being told, if the defendant is walking down the sidewalk and doing what he claims he was hired to do and police say good thing you're here, is that something influencing the defendant and emboldening him in his behavior? That would be an argument for relevance," the judge said.

Schroeder also denied Binger's request to bar the defense from referring to Rosenbaum, Huber and Grosskreutz as rioters, looters or arsonists. The judge said those terms would be allowed if the defense can produce evidence showing that's what they were.

Many conservatives have flocked to support Rittenhouse, calling him a patriot and making him a symbol for gun rights and raising $2 million for his bail. Others, including some liberals and activists, portray him as a domestic terrorist and say he made a volatile situation worse.


Original content written by Todd Richmond at the Associated Press. Associated Press writer Doug Glass contributed from Minneapolis. Editors at the Chicago Journal also contributed additional information to this report.


Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1


Notes & References


  1. Richmond, Todd. “Feds Won't Seek Charges against Cop in Jacob Blake Shooting.” AP NEWS. Associated Press, October 10, 2021. https://apnews.com/article/us-news-us-department-of-justice-rusten-sheskey-jacob-blake-kenosha-4f8493dd0776ef6046e052a538cd1460. ↩︎

  2. Alyssa Allemand and The Associated Press. “Jacob Blake Says He Was Going to Surrender to Police after Putting Pocket Knife in His Car.” Wisconsin Public Radio, January 15, 2021. https://www.wpr.org/jacob-blake-says-he-was-going-surrender-police-after-putting-pocket-knife-his-car. ↩︎

  3. Press, Associated. “Force Expert: Rittenhouse Decisions to Shoot Were Reasonable.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, October 6, 2021. https://www.chicagojournal.com/force-expert-rittenhouse-decisions-to-shoot-were-reasonable/. ↩︎

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