A judge has ruled that the three men who were shot by Kyle Rittenhouse during a riot in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year, may not be referred to as victims during the trial, but defense attorneys may refer to them as “rioters,” “looters,” or “arsonists” as long as they provide evidence.
“If more than one of them were engaged in arson, rioting, looting, I’m not going to tell the defense you can’t call them that,” Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder said. On the other hand, “The word ‘victim’ is a loaded, loaded word,” he said. “‘Alleged victim’ is a cousin to it.”
The judge also said that prosecutors may use their own harsh terms to describe Rittenhouse, such as “cold-blooded killer,” as long as they back it up with evidence.
Judge Schroeder met with prosecutors and Rittenhouse’s defense team on Monday to lay out the final ground rules on what evidence will be allowed in the trial, which begins next week.
Schroeder told lawyers that he’ll permit testimony from the defense’s use-of-force expert and video evidence showing that police welcomed Rittenhouse and others who were carrying guns to protect businesses during the riot.
The shooting took place on August 25, 2020 at around 11:45 p.m. near a car dealership in Kenosha, as antifa/BLM rioters rampaged through town for the third night in a row following the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake.
Rittenhouse, then 17-years-old, said in an interview that night that he was there to help people. “If somebody gets hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle. I have to protect myself obviously. I also have my med kit,” he told the Daily Caller’s Richie McGinniss.
He has been charged with killing two men—Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber—and seriously injuring another, Gaige Grosskreutz.
Court Commissioner Loren Keating set Rittenhouse’s bail at $2 million on November 2, 2020. With some celebrity help from attorney Lin Wood, MY Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, and actor Ricky Schroder, Rittenhouse was able to raise the money and was released on November 20.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger had argued in a recent motion that Rittenhouse’s lawyers should be banned from using the terms, since prosecutors will be banned from referring to the dead or injured men as “victims.”
But Schroeder disagreed, saying the two scenarios were not the same. It’s common for judges across the country to ban the word “victim” during trials, because it implies that a crime was committed and could therefore prejudice a jury against a defendant.
But since Rosenbaum, Huber, and Grosskreutz are not the ones on trial, Rittenhouse’s defense team is free to describe them as “rioters,” “looters,” or “arsonists” so long as they provide evidence that the men were rioting, looting, or committing arson, Schroeder said.
Prosecutors also wanted the judge to block the defense team from using use-of-force expert John Black to testify that Rittenhouse acted in self defense. Schroeder denied that request, but told attorneys that “Black wouldn’t be allowed to testify about what Rittenhouse was thinking when he pulled the trigger or whether he definitively acted in self-defense.”
“I almost certainly am not going to permit an opinion from anybody on the ultimate facts of the case,” he said.
Binger asked Schroeder to bar a video that shows police telling Rittenhouse and other armed militia members on the streets that they appreciated their presence and tossing Rittenhouse a bottle of water. The prosecutor said the video would transform the trial into a referendum on police procedure that night when it isn’t relevant.
“This is a case about what the defendant did that night,” Binger said. “I’m concerned this will be turned into a trial about what law enforcement did or didn’t do that night.”
Defense attorney Corey Chirafisi argued the video shows that police felt Rittenhouse wasn’t acting recklessly. Binger countered that the shootings happened after Rittenhouse interacted with the police, but Schroeder decided to allow the video.
“If the jury is being told, if the defendant is walking down the sidewalk and doing what he claims he was hired to do and police say good thing you’re here, is that something influencing the defendant and emboldening him in his behavior? That would be an argument for relevance,” the judge said.
Jury selection begins next Tuesday.