Kyle Rittenhouse: US teen gunman's lawyers seek mistrial

Lawyers for a teenager charged with shooting three people amid civil unrest in Wisconsin last year have called for a mistrial.

Kyle Rittenhouse: US teen gunman's lawyers seek mistrial

Kyle Rittenhouse's defence asked that the case be dismissed after the judge angrily rebuked prosecutors for airing apparently inadmissible evidence.

Mr Rittenhouse, 18, sobbed earlier in court as he took the stand.

He testified that he killed two men and injured a third on 25 August 2020 on the streets of Kenosha in self-defence.

Mr Rittenhouse is facing counts including intentional and reckless homicide, reckless endangerment and illegal possession of a firearm after he fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 28. He could get life in prison.

Riots erupted on the streets of the city two days earlier after police shot a black man, Jacob Blake. Mr Rittenhouse - who was 17 at the time - travelled to the city from his home in Illinois and, with a semi-automatic rifle in tow, he said he sought to help protect property from unrest on the streets.

Why was there a mistrial motion?

On Wednesday, day seven of the trial, lead prosecutor Thomas Binger and Judge Bruce Schroeder loudly quarrelled in court. Mr Binger's questioning about Mr Rittenhouse's decision to remain silent until now, as is his right, incurred furious reprimands from the judge.

"That's basic law, it's been the basic law in this country for 40 years, 50 years. I have no idea why you would do something like that," the judge said. "So I don't know what you're up to."

Judge Schroeder also accused the prosecutor of violating pre-trial rulings on introducing evidence the judge had ruled not relevant to the trial - a video recorded two weeks before the shootings in which Mr Rittenhouse commented about shooting men he thought were shoplifting at a pharmacy.

"Don't get brazen with me," Judge Schroeder told the prosecutor. "You know very well that an attorney can't go into these types of areas when the judge has already ruled without asking outside the presence of the jury to do so."

The judge added: "When you say you were acting in good faith, I don't believe you."

Defence attorneys argued there had been "prosecutorial overreaching", and called for a mistrial with prejudice, which would mean Mr Rittenhouse could not be retried.

Judge Schroeder did not rule on the motion on Wednesday, but agreed to take it "under advisement" based on the future behaviour of the prosecution team.

Lead defence attorney Corey Chirafasi even suggested that prosecutors may have been angling for a mistrial because the case was "going badly" for them.

What did Rittenhouse say about the shootings?

Taking the stand in a risky legal move for any defendant in a murder trial, Mr Rittenhouse said: "I didn't do anything wrong. I defended myself."

He said he was walking towards a used-car dealer's forecourt with a fire extinguisher to put out a fire when he heard somebody scream: "Burn in hell!"

Video evidence shows the gun-toting teen shouting out "friendly, friendly, friendly" to the crowd. He said he heard people shouting "get him" and began running.

"The person that attacked me first threatened to kill me," he said of Mr Rosenbaum, the first person he shot.

He told the jury he believed Mr Rosenbaum was carrying a chain with him at one point, though he later learned it was a plastic bag.

File photo of a protester in KenoshaIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,
Kenosha was engulfed by two nights of rioting before the Kyle Rittenhouse shootings

The judge called for a break after Mr Rittenhouse burst into tears as he began to describe to the jury the moments before the fatal shootings. His mother was also seen sobbing in the gallery.

Upon his return to the stand, the teen said he had nowhere to run at the time, later adding: "I didn't intend to kill. I intended to stop the person who was trying to kill me and trying to steal my gun."

Video from the scene shows the teenager fall to the ground as he is chased. Mr Rittenhouse said he feared for his life as several men converged upon him. The defendant said he shot and killed Mr Rosenbaum after Mr Rosenbaum laid a hand on his rifle.

A flag outside a Department of Corrections building that burned in the protestsIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,
A flag outside a Department of Corrections building burns on 24 August 2020

Mr Rittenhouse told the court that Mr Huber, the second person he shot, hit him with his skateboard and also tried to grab his rifle.

He also said Mr Grosskreutz, the man he wounded in the arm, had approached him with a pistol pointed at his head.

Mr Grosskreutz testified this week he thought Mr Rittenhouse was an "active shooter" when he drew his own gun and advanced on him.

Prosecutors argued that Mr Rittenhouse was a vigilante who wanted to kill everyone he shot that evening.

In a sharp cross-examination, prosecutor Thomas Binger contested the teen's right to possess a rifle and sought to cast doubt on the extent of his medical training.

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