A 12-person jury found 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of all five charges on Friday after some 26 hours of deliberations over four days.
Rittenhouse was initially charged with one misdemeanor and five felonies: first-degree intentional homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, and possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18. The latter charge, however, was dismissed by Judge Bruce Schroeder on Monday. The jury decided Rittenhouse was “not guilty” of all remaining charges.
Jurors had returned at 9 a.m. CST on Tuesday to begin deliberations exactly two weeks after the trial began. Just before deliberations, the 18-member jury pool was narrowed down to 12 in a lottery-style drawing.
Tensions have flared among protesters outside the Kenosha courthouse in recent days, and at least two people were arrested for clashing. MSNBC reporters were banned from the courthouse after one was cited by law enforcement for following a jury bus on Thursday.
Kenosha police have tweeted repeatedly this week that no threats to public safety were identified. Governor Tony Evers mobilized 500 National Guard troops last week to support the police in Kenosha, while repeatedly making calls for peace.
Closing arguments had concluded just before 6 p.m. CST Monday. Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger painted then-17-year-old Rittenhouse as a reckless teen who took his gun to Kenosha and provoked rioters there, including the individuals who attacked him. Rittenhouse defense attorney Mark Richards argued that Rittenhouse was a kid trying to help his community when he was attacked and his life threatened, forcing him to defend himself.
Then-17-year-old Rittenhouse was part of a group of volunteers who were asked to protect Kenosha businesses during protests that escalated into looting and rioting in reaction to the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse also offered medical aid to injured protesters and helped clean graffiti from buildings, evidence showed.
During the riots, Rittenhouse fatally shot 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, who was seen on video chasing Rittenhouse and throwing a bag at him while threatening to kill him. Rittenhouse has maintained that he fired four shots at Rosenbaum after Rosenbaum attempted to grab the barrel of Rittenhouse’s rifle.
Rittenhouse fired one shot that killed 26-year-old Anthony Huber after Huber struck Rittenhouse with a skateboard. He also fired upon Gaige Grosskreutz, who survived with a wound to his arm. Grosskreutz had testified last Monday that Rittenhouse only fired at him when he aimed his handgun at Rittenhouse.
Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and he and his legal team have maintained that he acted in self-defense when his life was threatened. He was jailed for two months in fall 2020 before posting $2 million bail raised after a crowdfunding effort.
Binger argued on Monday that Rittenhouse provoked the attacks on him and isn’t entitled to the privilege of self-defense.
“Under Wisconsin law, you’re not allowed to run around and point your gun at people. This is the provocation. This is what starts this incident,” Binger said. “You lose the right to self-defense when you’re the one who brought the gun, when you’re the one creating the danger, when you’re the one provoking other people.”
The defense team argued that the prosecution is detracting from Rittenhouse going to Kenosha in the first place because he was asked to help defend businesses from destructive riots. He also never used deadly force until he felt his life was in danger, the defense pointed out.
“Kyle was a 17-year-old kid out there trying to help this community,” Rittenhouse’s defense attorney Mark Richards said. “Kyle was not an active shooter. That is a buzzword the state wants to latch onto.”
“My client didn’t shoot anyone until he was chased and cornered,” Richards said, later arguing that Rittenhouse’s behavior was “protected under the law of the state of Wisconsin.”
On Wednesday, Rittenhouse had broken down in tears during his trial after taking the witness stand to describe the events of August 25, 2020. Rittenhouse is seeing a therapist for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) brought on by the violent events in Kenosha last year, his attorney said.
When evidence concluded on Friday, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers authorized the deployment of 500 National Guard troops to Kenosha to support law enforcement ahead of the anticipated verdict.
“We stand ready to support our communities during times of need,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin’s adjutant general. “In close coordination with the governor, we have assembled approximately 500 Soldiers to help keep the Kenosha community safe, should a request from our local partners come in.”