Crime The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, explained: 'If you believe him when he says self-defense, then you have to acquit him'
EXPLAINER: Does Kyle Rittenhouse need to testify?
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Defense attorneys typically encourage their clients to testify in self-defense cases. But Kyle Rittenhouse's murder trial is anything but typical and it's still unclear whether the Illinois man will take the stand to explain to jurors what he was thinking when he shot three people during a protest in Wisconsin last year. Rittenhouse's attorney, Mark Richards, told the jury during opening statements last week that they would hear from Rittenhouse himself about how protesters were carrying rocks.
The jurors who cleared Kyle Rittenhouse on the five charges against him – ranging from intentional homicide to reckless homicide to reckless endangerment – haven't yet spoken publicly.
When they do, they'll likely be asked: Where did they find reasonable doubt?
But that's the wrong question, civil rights attorney Jamie White told USA TODAY afterthat further split America along political and racial lines more than a year after he shot three men, two fatally, during a night of protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
EXPLAINER: Did Rittenhouse lawyers do enough to prevail?
KENOSHA, Wisconsin (AP) — When Kyle Rittenhouse took the stand to testify about his actions the night he shot three men on the streets of Kenosha — sobbing and seemingly unable to continue as he approached the critical moment where he shot the first man — it was one of the most compelling moments in his two-week murder trial. It might have been the most effective part of his three-day defense, too, potentially swaying any jurors inclined toward sympathy for the 18-year-old who has claimed self-defense in the shootings that left two of the men dead.
“They didn’t have to come up with reasonable doubt,” said White, a Michigan-based criminal defense attorney who has represented dozens of sexual abuse victims in high-profile cases involving the Boy Scouts of America and Larry Nassar, the disgraced former doctor for the U.S. women's gymnastics team. . “They never got there. It was all about, was he (Rittenhouse) acting reasonably at the time of the shootings?”
The "reasonable doubt was self-defense," contended Lara Yeretsian, a veteran criminal defense attorney based in Los Angeles.
Jury to begin deliberations at Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial
KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — Jurors will begin deliberations Tuesday at Kyle Rittenhouse's murder trial after two weeks of testimony in which prosecutors and defense attorneys painted starkly different pictures of his actions the night he shot three men on the streets of Kenosha. Prosecutors claimed in closing arguments Monday that Rittenhouse was a “wannabe soldier” who provoked bloodshed by bringing a semi-automatic rifle to a protest and menacing others, then walking off like a “hero in a Western” after killing two men and wounding a third. © Provided by Associated Press A lone protester stands outside the Kenosha County Courthouse, late Monday, Nov.
“If you’ve got them convinced of self-defense, if you’ve got them to believe that everything he did was to defend his life and his life was at risk, that if he wouldn’t have shot those men he’d be dead himself, that’s it,” said Yeretsian, who’s worked on high-profile cases including the defenses of Michael Jackson and Scott Peterson.
Kyle Rittenhouse verdict reactions:
“As far as his testimony goes, the jurors clearly found him credible and that in itself is huge," she added. "If you believe him when he says self-defense, then you have to acquit him.”
Other legal experts also expressed little surprise with the verdict
"I think that anyone who saw the evidence could see that the jury might have a difficult time coming to a unanimous decision that Kyle Rittenhouse wasn't defending himself," Julius Kim, a Wisconsin defense attorney and former prosecutor,.
Kyle Rittenhouse trial: Jury still deliberating verdict as judge considers mistrial over drone video
Jurors in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial were to deliberate for a third day while the judge considers a request from the defense for a mistrial. Your browser does not support this video A key piece of evidence in the prosecution's case — a drone video that shows Rittenhouse fatally shooting the first man he fired at on the night of Aug. 25, 2020 — was called into question Wednesday when Rittenhouse's defense lawyers said they received a lower quality version of the clip.
"They were not deciding here – who do they believe more. They were deciding a very specific legal question: Do they think the prosecutors proved beyond a reasonable doubt that it wasn't self-defense," ABC chief legal analyst Dan Abrams, adding he believed videos of the shootings were particularly impactful on the jury.
Prosecutor Thomas Binger didn't help the state's case, legal experts told USA TODAY.
While White said he "wasn’t impressed at all by the prosecutor," although he also acknowledged he didn’t have access to all the evidence, he did agree with Binger's argument to the jury that “when you talk about self-defense, it has to be proportionate – and using a semi-automatic rifle on someone who’s kicking you or hitting you with a skateboard is not proportionate."
“If anything was going to turn the table, I thought it was going to be that argument, that you can’t bring a gun to a fistfight," White said. "But, in this case, the jury ruled that you could.”
These were Kyle Rittenhouse's shooting victims:
Kyle Rittenhouse Found Not Guilty of All Charges in Fatal Shooting of 2 Men At Black Lives Matter Protest
Kyle Rittenhouse, then 17, was accused of homicide for using an AR-style rifle to kill two people during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha, Wisc., last yearJurors embraced the claim that Kyle Rittenhouse was defending himself when he fatally shot two men and injured a third last year, clearing him of homicide Friday along with all related charges that included recklessly brandishing a dangerous weapon during a Black Lives Matter protest over police brutality in Kenosha, Wisc.
Binger's inability to sway the jury on proportionate use of force was a pivotal moment in a trial that began with him already facing "an uphill battle," Yeretsian told USA TODAY.
"Even the prosecution’s witnesses, they were supporting the defense’s argument – when the one survivor testified that he pointed his gun at Rittenhouse and that’s when Rittenhouse shot him, that gives the jury enough," she said.
Putting Rittenhouse on the stand, Yeretsian said, was “risky but the right move, especially in a trial with the entire nation watching it.”– he cried at one point – worked in his favor, she said.
“He’s got this baby face, he shed some tears, that could pull at some heart strings – defense attorneys count on those things,” Yeretsian said. “But other than the few moments of crying and him being emotional, he was pretty calm and able to explain his side. He came across as credible.”
She added, "(The jury) bought the self-defense argument, and that’s really the bottom line.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY:
Protesters trace route Rittenhouse took in Kenosha .
KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — Several dozen people gathered below the wind-whipped Wisconsin flag at Kenosha's Civic Center Park on Sunday and warmed up with chants for justice before taking to the streets in protest of the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse. Demonstrators traced the route Rittenhouse took the night in August last year when he shot and killed two people and wounded a third during protests over police brutality. They carried signs that said “Reject Racist Vigilante Terror” and “THE WHOLE SYSTEM IS GUILTY!” A couple of protesters carried long guns.