by Charlie De Mar and Mugo Odigwe
KENOSHA, Wis. (CBS) — Jurors in the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial were sent home for the day after wrapping up their first day of deliberations without a verdict in his trial over shooting three people, killing two of them, in Kenosha last year.
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Jurors began deliberations around 9:15 a.m. Tuesday, and were dismissed for the day around 5:50 p.m. They will return at 9 a.m. Wednesday to resume deliberations.
Before deliberations began Tuesday morning, the field of 18 jurors was winnowed down to 12, after their numbers were placed on pieces of paper in a lottery tumbler in the courtroom, and Rittenhouse himself picked six pieces of paper that were used to identify the alternate jurors. The alternate jurors are three white males and three white females, leaving the lone person of color still on the jury of seven women and five men who will decide the verdict.
Kenosha County Judge Bruce Schroeder gave the jurors some final instructions before sending them to begin deliberations.
“In the event that you have questions, I will talk with the attorneys before answering, so it may take some time. You should continue your deliberations while you await an answer. I will answer any questions in writing, or orally here in open court,” he said.
Schroeder also told the alternate jurors that, while it’s unlikely, there’s still a chance they could be reinstated to the jury, so they can’t discuss the case with anyone until a verdict has been announced.
Outside the courthouse, a small group of protesters on both sides gathered peacefully.
— Charlie De Mar (@CharlieDeMar) November 16, 2021
Jurors heard from more than 30 witnesses during two weeks of testimony. A total of 500 National Guard troops are standing by in case of possible unrest once a verdict is reached.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys painted starkly different pictures of the teenage gunman in closing arguments on Monday, with a prosecutor describing him as a vigilante with “no remorse, no regard for life,” and the defense team calling him “a 17=year-old kid out there trying to help this community.”
Rittenhouse faces five felony charges in the August 2020 shootings that killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, during a chaotic night of protests in Kenosha over the police shooting of Jacob Blake,
There’s no question Rittenhouse shot anyone. However, jurors must decide whether Rittenhouse fired in self-defense, as his attorneys claim, or was acting as a a vigilante, as prosecutors argue. The jury will be allowed to consider some lesser charges in addition to those prosecutors originally brought against him. Judge Bruce Schroeder said he would issue final rulings on Saturday about which lesser charges the jury could consider.
The most serious charge Rittenhouse faces is first-degree intentional homicide in the shooting that killed Huber, for which Rittenhouse could face life in prison if convicted.
But the jury will be allowed to consider two less severe charges for the shooting of Huber, which would mean less time behind bars.
On the stand, Rittenhouse said he was defending himself against Huber, who he shot and killed after Huber swung his skateboard at him.
In Rosenbaum’s death, Rittenhouse is charged with first-degree reckless homicide and use of a dangerous weapon, for which he could face up to 60 years in prison if convicted.
Rittenhouse said he fired his AR-15 four times because Rosenbaum lunged for his gun.
Those shots also came close to hitting Richie McGinnis, a photographer who interviewed Rittenhouse moments before the shooting. Rittenhouse is charged with first-degree recklessly endangering safety with the use of a dangerous weapon – which carries a maximum sentence of 12 and half years.
Rittenhouse is also accused of the same charge for firing two shots at an unidentified man who jump-kicked Rittenhouse while he was on the ground.
For the shooting of Grosskreutz, the final man whom Rittenhouse shot and who survived, the jury will deliberate over an attempted first-degree intentional homicide count.
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On any of the charges, the jury could choose to acquit Rittenhouse on self-defense grounds.
Kenosha County assistant district attorney Thomas Binger said Rittenhouse provoked the shootings, accusing the then-17-year-old of threatening protesters with an AR-15 style rifle before firing the first shots that night.
Binger said Rittenhouse “cannot hide behind self-defense” if he’s the one who instigated the deadly confrontations in the first place.
“If you created the danger, you forfeited the right to self-defense, by bringing that gun, aiming at people, threatening people’s lives, the defendant provoked everything. And if he does that, he has to exhaust all reasonable means to avoid a confrontation,” Binger said. “I think we can also agree that we shouldn’t have 17-year-olds running around our streets with AR-15s, because this is what happens.”
He also said, when jurors decide whether or not Rittenhouse’s actions were legally justified, they must ask if they would have done the same thing he did if they were in his shoes.
“When you consider what’s reasonable in this case, consider whether or not it’s reasonable for a criminal to be able to shoot himself out of a crime scene,” Binger said. “No reasonable person would have done what the defendant did, and that makes your decision easy. He is guilty of all counts.”
Rittenhouse’s attorneys, however, contended that Rittenhouse was defending himself against an angry mob.
“My client didn’t shoot anyone until he was chased and cornered,” defense attorney Mark Richards said.
Richards said Rittenhouse went to Kenosha that night to help a friend protect a car lot from rioters and looters
“Kyle was a 17 year old kid out there trying to help this community,” Richards said. “Ladies and gentlemen, this has been a rush to judgement.”
Calling Rosenbaum a “bad man” and a “rioter,” Richards said Rosenbaum was the one causing trouble that night, “and my client had to deal with him that night alone.”
“Mr. Rosenbaum was shot because he was chasing my client, tried to take his gun and carry out the threats,” he had made earlier, Richards said.
He also described Huber and Grosskreutz as “individuals working in a mob” when they confronted Rittenhouse moments later, without knowing exactly what had happened between Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum.
“What you were seeing was individuals acting as a mob – they are going to get their licks in on Kyle Rittenhouse, or as they see it, someone from the other side,” he said.
Earlier, Judge Bruce Schroeder handed the defense team a victory by dismissing a count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 against Rittenhouse.
While only a misdemeanor charge, it appeared to be the most likely count to result in a conviction for Rittenhouse, who was only 17 when he carried an AR-15 style rifle in Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020, and used it to shoot three men, killing two of them.
Defense attorneys argued Wisconsin state law has an exception that would allow 17-year-olds to openly carry firearms if they are not short-barreled rifles, with a barrel of less than 16 inches and an overall length of less than 26 inches.
Schroeder said the Wisconsin law was poorly written, and that the size of the rifle Rittenhouse carried meant he didn’t violate that law. Although prosecutors said they disagreed with the judge’s interpretation of the law, they conceded Rittenhouse’s weapon was not a short-barreled rifle, and Schroeder dismissed that count.
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The dismissal of the gun charge against Rittenhouse leaves five counts for the jury to consider, ranging from intentional homicide to recklessly endangering safety.