The trial of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial began Tuesday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where the 18-year-old is charged with killing two people and injuring one during riots in the city last August.
Prosecutors said even though “hundreds” of people were out on the streets protesting the shooting of a black man by a white police officer, Rittenhouse was “the only person who killed anyone”.
Rittenhouse is charged with two counts of manslaughter, one for attempted murder and two for recklessly endangering the safety of firing his weapon near others. He is also charged with possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor when he was 17 at the time. He has pleaded not guilty.
Last August, Rittenhouse left his home in Antioch, Illinois, armed with an AR-15-like rifle and in response to a Kenosha-based militia calling for corporate protection against protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
Rittenhouse is white, the same was the two men who died, and the same is the one who was wounded. Nevertheless, the case has attracted attention from both sides of the political divide over police work and racial injustice.
On Monday, 12 juries and eight deputies were elected in a full-day session. The highly controversial lawsuit, which is expected to last about two weeks, will determine whether Rittenhouse acted in self-defense or in a deliberate act of vigilance.
The judge, Bruce Shroeder, said he would decide at the end of the trial which jurors were deputies and which would judge.
“There is no magic way for you to evaluate the testimony,” he said Tuesday. “Instead, you should use your common sense and your experiences in life.”
Rittenhouse looked on, dressed in a suit and tie and yawning repeatedly.
Shroeder said the state must prove by evidence three elements of Rittenhouse’s charges of murder: that the defendant caused the death of another, that the defendant caused the death by criminal reckless conduct, and that the defendant’s conduct showed complete disregard for human life.
“You can not look into a person’s mind to determine the intent that must be found, if it is to be found at all,” Schroeder said, adding, “Intent should not be confused with motive.”
In his opening statement, Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger portrayed Rittenhouse as an antagonist who chose to exacerbate tensions.
“Like moths to a flame, tourists outside our community were attracted to the chaos here in Kenosha,” Binger said. “People outside Kenosha came in and contributed to that chaos.
“The evidence will show that hundreds of people were out on the streets and experiencing chaos and violence, and the only person who killed anyone was the accused, Kyle Rittenhouse.”
Binger added: “When we consider the reasonableness of the defendant’s actions, I ask you to keep that in mind. We are not asking you to solve a mystery in this case.”
Rittenhouse’s senior lawyer, Mark Richards, claimed that Rittenhouse had close ties to Kenosha when his father lived in the city and he had worked as a lifeguard at a local YMCA.
“Mr. Binger is doing a great thing out of Kyle Rittenhouse as the only person who shot anyone that night,” Richards said. “True. Mr. Rittenhouse was the only person chased by Joseph Rosenbaum that night.”
Rosenbaum was one of the men killed shot by Rittenhouse, whom he chased across a parking lot and after whom he threw a plastic bag.
‘The government can refer to [Rittenhouse] everything they want as an active shooter, ”Richards said. “The only person he had shot was Joseph Rosenbuam, who had made threats to kill.
“… Kyle Rittenhouse protected himself, protected his firearm so that it could not be taken and used against him or other people from Mr. Rosenbaum who made threats to kill.”
Richards also said “other people did not see the shooting attack [Rittenhouse] on the street like an animal ”.
The trial continues.