We’re into the 13th day of the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager charged with killing two people and wounding a third during violent protests in Kenosha last year after the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The defense and prosecution gave closing arguments Monday, Nov. 15, and the jury begins deliberation Tuesday.
Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with counts of intentional, reckless and attempted homicide and reckless endangerment. A misdemeanor charge of possessing a firearm as a minor was dismissed Monday, and a curfew violation charge was dismissed last week.
Check below for updates as Journal Sentinel reporters and photographers cover the trial. You can also read about what happened on day one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 and 11 of the trial.
U.S Senate candidate photographed with two people flashing ‘OK’ sign
Republican Mark McCloskey, a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, was photographed Tuesday outside the Wisconsin courthouse where Kyle Rittenhouse was on trial for murder with two people flashing a sign associated with white supremacists.
McCloskey and his wife, Patricia, were both in Kenosha on Monday and Tuesday to show support for Rittenhouse. The McCloskeys gained national attention after they waved guns at racial injustice protesters who were marching in their gated St. Louis subdivision last summer.
Mark McCloskey compared himself to Rittenhouse in a statement Tuesday, saying they have both been prosecuted and were defending themselves from an “angry mob.” McCloskey said he hopes the jury finds Rittenhouse not guilty.
McCloskey on Tuesday was photographed standing next to two men flashing an “OK” sign, which is associated with white supremacists.
Rittenhouse was also photographed in January with two men as they made the “OK” sign with their hands. The judge in September ruled against allowing that to be discussed during Rittenhouse’s trial.
— Associated Press
Jury goes home at about 5:45 p.m. after about eight hours of deliberation
The jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse case has officially retired for evening as of about 5:45 p.m.
The 12 jurors’ day concludes after roughly eight hours of deliberation, during which they did not request additional information from lawyers of both parties — only extra copies of jury instructions.
The selection of the jurors did spur a healthy amount of discussion online Tuesday, after Rittenhouse himself helped randomly select who would deliberate and who would serve as an alternate from a pool of 18.
Judge Bruce Schroeder said late Tuesday that the practice of a defendant randomly choosing his or her jurors has been standard in his courtroom for the last 20 years.
Schroeder indicated the jury would reconvene at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
— Elliot Hughes
Jury expected to go home for the evening, no verdict reached Tuesday
Judge Bruce Schroeder says it appears the jury has decided to go home for the evening and continue deliberations Wednesday morning, according to reporters inside the courtroom.
The jury will return to the courtroom shortly to formally break for the day and receive jury instructions from the judge.
The judge said he is going to go “get dressed up,” presumably in his robes, and then “dismiss the jury for the evening,” according to the pool reporter.
— Ashley Luthern
Judge to check in with jury around 5 p.m.
Judge Bruce Schroeder expects to check in with jurors about 5 p.m. to see how long they want to continue deliberating Tuesday evening, according to a pool reporter in the courtroom.
He said his general policy is to defer to the jurors.
“I’ll pretty much let them run the show,” he said.
— Ashley Luthern
Rittenhouse’s trial is happening in state court. Here’s why the US DOJ was not involved.
Kyle Rittenhouse faces charges in state court with counts of intentional, reckless and attempted homicide and reckless endangerment.
A misdemeanor charge of possessing a firearm as a minor was dismissed Monday, and a curfew violation charge was dismissed last week.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, has not faced any federal charges.
Federal law only applies in homicide cases in vary narrow circumstances, such as the crime occurring on federal land or the victim being an elected federal official.
Most criminal cases are handled at the state level. If Rittenhouse is cleared of state charges, it’s very unlikely he would face any federal charges, said John P. Gross, professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School and director of the Public Defender Project.
Gross pointed out the following:
Rittenhouse is not accused of a hate crime. He is not a member of law enforcement and therefore cannot be charged with depriving anyone of their civil rights as a government agent. He is not accused of a robbery involving a federally insured business, like a bank, or interfering with interstate commerce.
Rittenhouse was not old enough to buy an AR-15 at the time and he was not the person who purchased the weapon. Rittenhouse, who lived in Illinois, did not take the gun across state lines to Kenosha. The AR-15 was stored at the Kenosha home of the person who purchased the weapon and Rittenhouse retrieved it there before going to the protests, according to testimony.
“I don’t think there’s any grounds for the DOJ to get involved, and that’s true of most criminal cases,” Gross said.
The buyer of the AR-15, Dominick Black, does face possible federal exposure related to the straw purchase of the firearm. Black testified during Rittenhouse’s trial and he faces two charges of intentionally giving a dangerous weapon to someone under 18, resulting in death, in state court.
Federal authorities have looked into Black’s purchase of the rifle, a spokesperson for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told the Journal Sentinel earlier this year. Black testified he knew Rittenhouse was younger than 18 when he took Rittenhouse’s money and purchased the gun for him.
— Ashley Luthern
Kyle Rittenhouse’s mom seeks donations in son’s legal defense
Wendy Rittenhouse signed a mass email sent Tuesday asking for more donations to her son Kyle’s legal defense fund.
The email was sent by Free Kyle USA, also known as the Milo Fund, a Nevada-based LLC that supposedly provides Wendy Rittenhouse with more control of the donations than a previous fund created by his former attorneys Lin Wood and John Pierce that garnered $2 million.
“Both the prosecution and my son Kyle’s defense team have finished their closing arguments and I am beyond nervous,” reads the email, according to a screengrab from CNN reporter Sarah Sidner.
“This corrupt persecution has been extremely difficult and I’m reaching out with an emergency request to help ensure it doesn’t bury us,” it continues.
The email is in the style of political campaigns’ fundraising emails. On social media Tuesday, news of the email prompted harsh words from Rittenhouse critics.
The email is signed: “Sincerely, Wendy Rittenhouse.”
— Sophie Carson
Don’t expect to hear from prosecutors after the verdict
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, the lead prosecutor, and his colleagues will not convene a news conference or sit for media interviews after the jury reaches its verdict.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Binger said he consulted Wisconsin Supreme Court rules around ethics for prosecutors and trial publicity after receiving inquiries from media organizations.
“In light of these ethical guidelines, I have concluded that it would not be appropriate for our office to comply with your requests,” Binger said.
Prosecutors have made a number of decisions that have drawn attention during the high-profile trial.
— Ashley Luthern
Jury asks for 11 additional copies of instruction packet
As of about 3 p.m. Tuesday there were few signs as to where jurors were at after more than five hours of deliberation.
The 12-person jury was sent away around 9:30 a.m. and since then, they have asked for more copies of jury instructions and broke for lunch.
The jury requested 11 additional copies of the 36-page instruction packet.
Lawyers from both parties were told to remain within 10 minutes of the courthouse should questions arise, but as of 3 p.m. none had.
The jury also took a break around 12:30 p.m. to eat pizza.
— Elliot Hughes
Vice president calls for focus on ‘the facts and the evidence’ in case
As Wisconsinites anxiously await a verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, Vice President Kamala Harris is calling for the focus to be on “the facts and the evidence” presented in the Kenosha courtroom.
“As a former courtroom prosecutor, I can tell you that the focus should be on the facts and the evidence in the case, and I’m not going to comment on either,” Harris said Tuesday in an interview with the Journal Sentinel.
Harris, who previously served as the district attorney of San Francisco and California’s attorney general, repeated that the focus on should be on “the facts and the evidence that are presented in the courtroom.”
On Monday, the judge in Rittenhouse’s homicide trial ordered the jury to disregard the opinions of both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump in reaching a verdict.
“You will pay no heed to the opinions of anyone, even the president of the United States, or the president before him,” Judge Bruce Schroeder said during jury instructions.
Schroeder’s comments came after Rittenhouse’s mother, Wendy, appeared on Fox News and accused Biden of defaming her son by portraying him as a white supremacist last year.
On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to weigh in on Biden’s previous comments.
“What I’m not going to speak to right now is anything about an ongoing trial, nor the president’s past comments,” Psaki said. “What I can reiterate for you is the president’s view that we shouldn’t have, broadly speaking, vigilantes patrolling our communities with assault weapons.”
— Mary Spicuzza
Was it unusual that Kyle Rittenhouse randomly picked the jurors who would be alternates?
On Tuesday morning, Kyle Rittenhouse drew six slips of paper from a rolling tumbler, similar to one used for bingo numbers or raffle tickets.
On each slip was the number of a juror. The six jurors he drew became alternates. The remaining 12 jurors left the courtroom to begin deliberations.
The visual of a defendant picking jurors, even randomly, drew attention online Tuesday.
The Associated Press spoke with several attorneys who said it was unusual but not illegal or unethical. Ion Meyn, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, told the AP there’s no ban on the practice, but usually the clerk of courts performs the task.
On Tuesday afternoon, journalists at the Kenosha courthouse reported that prosecutors said having a defendant select the alternates had become a tradition in recent years inside Judge Bruce Schroeder’s courtroom.
A reporter with the Kenosha News noted the tumbler used Tuesday is original to the courtroom, which dates to the 1920s, according to the clerk of courts.
— Ashley Luthern
Kenosha religious leaders gather to pray for healing and peace
A few blocks from the clamor and impromptu debates on the steps of the Kenosha County Courthouse, local religious leaders gathered over the noon hour Tuesday to pray for the healing of Kenosha.
“Here in Kenosha we find ourselves on the banks of troubled waters,” Rabbi Dena Feingold told around three-dozen people gathered in Library Park, a quiet and graceful spot.
With the city on edge and waiting for the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case, the religious leaders made a plea for the community to stick together and remain peaceful, no matter the decision of the jury.
“When the verdict is announced, some will celebrate that right has prevailed and justice was done. And others will shake with outrage and despair and ask, ‘where is justice?’ “ Feingold said.
Kevin Beebe, pastor of Spirit Alive Lutheran Church, noted that for now there is a crush of news media focused on Kenosha. But eventually, he said, the news crews will leave and “we are the people who will seek justice, seek peace, call for reconciliation.”
“When the verdict does come and you feel whatever you feel, know you are not alone,” said Monica Cummings, Assistant Minister of Pastoral Care at Bradford Community Church Unitarian Universalist.
Erik David Carlson, minister of Bradford Community Church, said the Rittenhouse trial “pits two of your most sacred American values against one another — individual liberty versus collective welfare.”
The event was organized by Religious Leaders Caucus of CUSH (Congregations United to Serve Humanity, the WISDOM organization in Kenosha County).
— Bill Glauber
As jury deliberates, mistrial motion remains pending
As the jury began weighing the case against Kyle Rittenhouse Tuesday, another legal issue remained in limbo before the court.
Last week, Rittenhouse’s attorneys asked for a mistrial with prejudice, meaning if the judge granted their motion, prosecutors could not refile the charges.
As of Tuesday morning, Judge Bruce Schroeder had not issued a ruling.
If the jury comes back and acquits Rittenhouse in the fatal shooting of two people and the wounding of a third, the motion is moot.
But if the jury returns a conviction on any count, Schroeder will need to make a ruling.
Given those dynamics, legal experts told the Journal Sentinel it was somewhat unusual that Schroeder had not yet issued a ruling on the motion.
“I’m not sure why the judge has waited to rule,” said Michael O’Hear, professor of criminal law at Marquette Law School, in a email. “It seems unlikely to me that he would have turned the case over to the jury if he expected to grant the mistrial.”
Keith Findley, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, called the lack of decision “odd.”
“The only reason I can think of for waiting is perhaps he wants to give the jury a chance to acquit so he doesn’t have to, but that’s speculation on my part,” Findley, co-founder of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, said in an interview.
John P. Gross, professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, said the delay possibly made sense in terms of the resources already expended in the case, which included eight days of testimony. Still, he said it was rare.
“It really should be off the table but as he’s shown during the trial, he likes to keep his options open,” Gross said of the judge.
Read the full story here.
— Ashley Luthern
Explainer: Why did the judge drop the gun possession charge?
On its face, convicting Kyle Rittenhouse of illegally possessing a dangerous weapon looked like a slam dunk for prosecutors. Rittenhouse was 17 when he shot three people, killing two, with a semi-automatic rifle last year. Under Wisconsin law, anyone under 18 who possesses a dangerous weapon is guilty of a misdemeanor.
But from early on, Rittenhouse’s attorneys have pointed to an exception in a confusingly worded statute that they argued makes it legal for 16 and 17-year-olds to carry rifles or shotguns as long as they are not short-barreled.
Rittenhouse’s AR-15-style rifle was not short-barreled.
Prosecutors argued that if the exception was interpreted that way, it would “swallow the whole statute” and wouldn’t make any sense. Under that interpretation, prosecutors said, 17-year-olds would be prohibited from possessing nunchucks, but allowed to carry loaded assault-style rifles.
Before ultimately dismissing the charge, Judge Bruce Schroeder said he had been “wrestling” with the statute for a while, calling it unclear.
“I’d hate to count the hours that I’ve put into it, and I’m still trying to figure out what it says, what is prohibited,” Schroeder said Friday. “How are ordinary people supposed to know what’s against the law?”
On Friday, Schroeder said he would instruct the jury that Rittenhouse could not be convicted of the weapon possession charge unless the state proved his rifle had an unlawfully short barrel — something for which there was no evidence.
On Monday, prosecutors stood by their interpretation of the law that it prohibited Rittenhouse from carrying a firearm that night, but agreed that the weapon used by Rittenhouse was not short-barreled. The judge then immediately dismissed the charge.
The judge’s ruling is not precedential in the legal sense, said Keith Findley, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School and co-founder of the Wisconsin Innocence Project.
“It would take an appellate court ruling to make that binding in other courts,” he said.
The “real problem” of the ruling isn’t the judge’s decision but rather when he made it, said John P. Gross, professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School and director of the Public Defender Project.
The defense had asked for the dismissal months ago and the judge denied it. The defense filed a motion for reconsideration and the judge still was not granting the motion to dismiss the charge but “he wasn’t definitive,” Gross said.
“Nothing about the evidence at trial requires that decision,” Gross said. “That should have been made six months ago. That did hurt the prosecution. …It’s the only charge that they were absolutely going to get a conviction.”
If the judge had ruled months ago, prosecutors could have appealed and gotten a decision from an appellate court to say how the statute should be interpreted.
The Wisconsin law in question begins by defining dangerous weapons to include “any firearm, loaded or unloaded,” as well as things like Tasers and even nunchucks and throwing stars.
It then says, “Any person under 18 years of age who possesses or goes armed with a dangerous weapon is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.”
In part, the exception in question says that the prohibition on possessing dangerous weapons “applies only to a person under 18 years of age who possesses or is armed with a rifle or a shotgun if the person” has an illegal short-barreled rifle or shotgun or if the person doesn’t comply with hunting-related requirements in two separate sections of the law.
Rittenhouse’s attorneys argued the hunting-related part does not apply in his case because one of the sections only applies to children under the age of 16.
This post includes information from the Associated Press.
— Sarah Volpenhein, Ashley Luthern, Bruce Vielmetti
Kenosha law enforcement, Evers reach out to public
As Kenosha law enforcement officials announced they have improved their response to large events since last year, Gov. Tony Evers urged peace in the city.
In a joint statement, the Kenosha Police Department and Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office said they “understand and recognize the anxiety surrounding the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.”
“Our departments have worked together and made coordinated efforts over the last year to improve response capabilities to large scale events. We have also strengthened our existing relationships with State and Federal resources,” the statement read.
The departments also said there is not a current need to set curfews or close roads.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Evers asked “all those who choose to assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights in every community to do so safely and peacefully.”
“Any efforts to sow division and hinder that healing are unwelcome in Kenosha and Wisconsin. Regardless of the outcome in this case, I urge peace in Kenosha and across our state,” he said in the statement.
“Please respect the Kenosha community and their efforts to come together,” it continued.
Evers is sending 500 Wisconsin National Guard troops to the Kenosha area to be on standby at the conclusion of jury deliberations in case they are needed.
— Sophie Carson
Consultant for Simpson defense team working with Rittenhouse attorneys
A jury expert who was a consultant for O.J. Simpson’s defense team has been working with Rittenhouse’s attorneys.
Jo-Ellan Dimitrius has consulted in over 1,000 trials and picked over 600 juries, according to her firm’s website. She has worked on several high-profile cases and has spoken since the Simpson murder trial about determining the profile of the “perfect juror” who would acquit him.
The Washington Post reported Dimitrius helped the defense select the jury in Rittenhouse’s case.
“It is not exactly clear what services Dimitrius was brought on to provide for Rittenhouse’s defense or how long she has been helping,” the Post reported.
Dimitrius has been seen in the courtroom gallery, often sitting next to Rittenhouse’s mother Wendy. When Rittenhouse began crying on the witness stand, Wendy Rittenhouse also began crying. Dimitrius was seen hugging her and speaking to her.
— Sophie Carson
Jury deliberations begin in Rittenhouse trial
Following two weeks of proceedings and eight days of testimony, the jury in Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial has been sent away to deliberate.
Jury deliberations began shortly after 9 a.m.
Defense attorney Corey Chirafisi placed 18 slips of paper, each with a juror’s designated number, into a rolling tumbler similar to one used for bingo numbers or raffle tickets.
Rittenhouse was the one who pulled out the six pieces of paper.
The 12-person jury consists of five men and seven women; 11 white people and one person of color. Six alternates – three white males and three white females – will remain at the courthouse if they are needed.
Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder thanked the alternates for their time and said the court would try to arrange some kind of entertainment for them as they waited.
Attorneys for both parties were told to stay within 10 minutes of the Kenosha County Courthouse in case there are questions from the jury.
— Elliot Hughes and Sophie Carson
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Kyle Rittenhouse trial live updates: McCloskey poses near ‘OK’ sign