A prosecutor says Kyle Rittenhouse was ‘the only person who killed anyone’ in Kenosha unrest.
The trial began with a prosecutor portraying the teenager as a tourist who inserted himself into fiery unrest in Kenosha and initiated the confrontation that led him to shoot three men.,
Lawyers involved in Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial spoke with Judge Bruce Schroeder during jury selection on Monday.Credit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic
KENOSHA, Wis. — Opening statements in the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial began on Tuesday, after a jury was selected in an unusually swift process at the Kenosha County Courthouse.
Mr. Rittenhouse, 18, faces six criminal counts including first-degree intentional homicide in the shooting deaths of two men and the wounding of another in the aftermath of protests over a police shooting in Kenosha during the summer of 2020.
During opening statements, Thomas Binger, the lead prosecutor in the case against Mr. Rittenhouse, said that hundreds of people in Kenosha “experienced the night of Aug. 25, experienced the chaos” that unfolded amid the civil unrest.
“And yet,” Mr. Binger said, “the only one who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse.”
The jury, a panel of 20 people composed of 11 women and nine men, had on Monday been winnowed from a pool of about 150 prospective jurors who were summoned to the courthouse for questioning.
Judge Bruce Schroeder of Kenosha County Circuit Court, determined to select a jury rapidly, questioned potential jurors closely about their biases and their connections to the expected witnesses in the trial.
When potential jurors said they had read and talked too much about the trial to be impartial jurists, Judge Schroeder questioned whether they could overcome their notions about the case and focus on the evidence. One man began explaining that his support for the Second Amendment was so fervent that he did not believe he could serve as an impartial juror, but was stopped by the judge.
“I want this case to reflect the greatness of Kenosha and the fairness of Kenosha, and I don’t want it to get sidetracked into other issues,” Judge Schroeder said. “I don’t care about your opinions on the Second Amendment.”
Reconstructing the Rittenhouse Shootings: How Kenosha Echoed America’s Polarization
In the months leading up to Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial for killing two people, we analyzed hours of footage and interviewed key witnesses from that fatal night in Kenosha, Wis., to understand how the country’s polarization set the scene for violence.
A police officer in Kenosha, Wis., shoots a Black man named Jacob Blake seven times from behind, leaving him partially paralyzed. [gunshots] “Black lives matter!” Crowd: “Black lives matter!” Crowd: “Black lives matter!” Two days later, in the midst of protests and unrest, a teenager carrying an assault rifle kills two people and wounds a third. [gunshots] [yelling] [screams] “Oh, my God!” Now that shooter, 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, is standing trial on charges of murder. The case will likely focus on the few crucial minutes around the fatal shootings on Aug. 25 of 2020. [gunshots] But our investigation of these events reveals that the story is about much more than a single person. We analyzed hours of footage from that day and traveled to Kenosha just weeks after the events to hear from witnesses, several of whom have now been subpoenaed in the Rittenhouse trial. “It felt volatile. It felt tense. It felt like a war zone.” “We’re not like, bad people or like, people just going out to like, [expletive] up.” “I feel like had we not been there and not reacted the way that we did to the situation, I think we could have been looking at an even worse scenario.” We also spoke with the sheriff who led law enforcement’s response that night, which has become the subject of lawsuits. “Black lives matter!” While protests against systemic racism were what first drew out crowds in Kenosha, Rittenhouse, his victims, and many of those closest to the shootings, were white. What we found was a complex set of motivations on the streets that night that reflected the growing polarization in the country and helped set the scene … [gunshots] … for violence. On the Sunday before the Rittenhouse shooting, Kenosha police officers respond to a domestic complaint and try to arrest Jacob Blake. As Blake moves away from them and leans into his car, he’s holding a knife. [gunshots] An officer shoots him. [gunshots] Blake’s lawyer later said that Blake didn’t pose a threat. Video of the shooting quickly spreads online. “To hear about it is one thing. But to watch it, I guess it got to the point where, how many more?” Koerri Washington, who’s a local live streamer and now subpoenaed in the Rittenhouse trial, arrives to document the situation. “I mean, there was tons of people already starting to gather there. In the air you could kind of feel the tension.” “At a certain point, more sheriffs arrived on the scene. And their presence kind of aggravated the crowd. And from there, it just started going crazy.” [explosions] For the next 48 hours, the protests intensified. [crowds chanting] And at night, local businesses are looted and set on fire. Eventually, a new group inserts themselves into the already chaotic scene — dozens of men, mostly white, equipped with military-style weapons and gear. And soon, a Facebook post will incite more of them to come. It’s Tuesday morning, 13 hours before the Rittenhouse shooting, when on a Facebook page called the Kenosha Guard, a post publishes. “So my post just basically said, are there any patriots among us willing to take up arms and defend our lives, our families, our neighborhoods and our businesses?” The author of the post is Kevin Mathewson, a controversial former city councilman, who’s now been subpoenaed in the Rittenhouse trial. Hours after his post, thousands have seen it, and Mathewson arrives at Civic Center Park, the epicenter of the recent protests. “I wanted people to come play defense. I wanted people to come to protect themselves.” Reporter: “But did any business owners ask you for help for protection?” “I was not asked directly by a business to defend anybody.” “Say his name.” Crowd: “Jacob Blake.” At this point, demonstrators are marching peacefully in downtown Kenosha. They’re demanding an end to police violence against Black people. The presence of openly armed white men inflames the situation. “The Second Amendment is meant for everybody. It’s not exclusive to white people.” “Out of everyone that I saw with the militia, they were all white males. So I honestly feel that they came to incite more racial problems.” Porche Bennett, who’s a local activist, has been protesting for the last two days. “You get to see the people now that you have been living around forever. There are no more masks being worn.” “Are there some truly peaceful protesters that may have been a little intimidated about seeing an armed person with a gun? Probably. But the Second Amendment is very clear. And my rights don’t end where somebody else’s feelings begin.” Throughout the day and early into the evening, more openly armed men arrive near the protests. Some position themselves close to businesses that had been damaged on earlier nights. This is where we first see Ryan Balch, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran from a town 40 minutes away, who’s there with a group of friends. He’s also been subpoenaed in the Rittenhouse trial. “I would say what brought me to Kenosha was that I felt like something needed to be done. If law enforcement is not going to try to keep the peace, then somebody else needs to go out there and make sure that that happens.” Balch argues that his military training gave him the skills to help bring events under control. “We kind of trusted ourselves to insert ourselves in that situation, and bring the situation to the correct conclusion.” At the time, he also supported the extremist Boogaloo movement, which is anti-police and calls for the government’s overthrow. He says he later stopped supporting the movement. Balch and his friends eventually link up with other openly armed men. Among them is Kyle Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse is 17 years old. He’s from Illinois, and isn’t legally allowed to carry a gun in Wisconsin. Balch says he didn’t know Rittenhouse or the people he was with, but decided to team up with them anyway. “They weren’t on the level of me and my guys. I don’t think they trained formally together at all. But the more guys you got, the better off you are.” As for Rittenhouse, we don’t know whether he sees himself as some kind of neutral force between the protesters and the police, like Ryan does. His social media posts at the time seem to indicate he was a strong supporter of law enforcement. Since the shooting, he’s also been seen flashing white power signs … … and he’s become an icon for far-right groups. Crowd: “Black lives matter.” Soon, Balch and Rittenhouse will come face to face with racial justice protests. Crowd: “No justice! No peace!” The organized daytime protests at the park are now over, and law enforcement has announced a curfew. “Our goal that entire evening was to disperse people from the Civic Center after curfew and to get them to leave, to get them to go home.” Kevin Mathewson, who called for the presence of armed civilians that morning, says he left because he was worried about the safety of his family 10 miles away. “My wife was on the phone with me saying, ‘Hey, get your ass home. Kids are scared. I’m scared.'” [car alarm] “Breaking curfew was worth helping to create some type of positive change. It’s one thing to sit at home and say that, yes, Black Lives Matter. But it’s so much more impactful to put another body on the street.” Nathan Peet has been demonstrating in Kenosha for days. But tonight’s protest is different, and he’s carrying a gun. “I don’t normally like to carry at protests because I don’t want it to be seen as a sign of aggression. But I did carry on Tuesday specifically because of the threats that I saw floating around in the Kenosha Guard group.” [car alarm] Just arriving at the protests are Hannah Gittings and her boyfriend, Anthony Huber. Both are unarmed. But by night’s end, Huber will be shot and killed by Kyle Rittenhouse. Gittings has now been subpoenaed for Rittenhouse’s trial. “I wouldn’t really say we were like, heavy activists or anything previously. But we knew Jake Blake, and felt like we needed to be present and standing united with the people who believe the same things that we do and want basic human rights, civil rights, equality.” The standoff between protesters and the police becomes more violent. [car alarms] “Everything started to move super quickly.” “Police in riot gear all yelling to disperse and go home, you’re breaking curfew.” [car alarms] “I got grabbed by the police. And he threatened to lock me up if he caught me out there again at night. I just went home.” Faced with this massive show of force, only a small number of protesters choose to stay. Among the shrinking crowd is Gaige Grosskreutz, a paramedic from Milwaukee, who’s also under subpoena for the Rittenhouse trial. “When you go into a protest or a march in a medic capacity, you’re essentially waiving that luxury to be able to pick a side because ethically speaking, you know, you’re there to treat everybody.” Like Nathan Peet, Grosskreutz decided to come armed with a handgun. “‘Cause it’s my right. Simple as that.” He’ll later be shot by Kyle Rittenhouse after drawing his gun and trying to stop him. [car alarms] “It was going the direction we wanted it to go.” Law enforcement has one clear plan on this night. “We’re not going to let the city of Kenosha burn because you want to in the late evening hours start destroying stuff.” Over the course of the next two hours, officers force some of the protesters southeast across the park and onto this street, Sheridan Road, in the direction of the openly armed civilians. Balch, Rittenhouse and other armed men are still stationed a few blocks down the road near businesses that were damaged on previous nights. “I think that the police set the stage for it. They knew that there were armed groups down there. And they could have not pushed the protesters down Sheridan.” The sheriff told us that the police didn’t plan for the armed presence down the road. Reporter: “What did you tell your deputies to do if they encountered armed militia people?” “By the time I think I knew that they were out there doing this, we had — our staff was already deployed out there protecting the area. There was no direction to deal with the Kenosha Guard in any way at that point.” “We were midstream on this one, and we were going forward with the plans we had already had.” Once protesters and openly armed civilians encounter each other, there’s a confrontation. As Balch and his group argue with protesters, Peet is live streaming. “Between Ryan and his group and the other protesters, I definitely felt quite a bit of tension. There were a couple very, very hot-headed members of his group actively agitating protesters.” “Hey, hey, hey, hey.” Balch tells protesters to keep moving. “Right.” Reporter: “One of the militia members claims that a police officer told him that the officers were going to push the protesters out of Civic Center Park, and that the militia would handle them.” “I don’t believe that for a second.” The police continue pushing protesters further down the road to this intersection near a gas station. Here is where we first see Joseph Rosenbaum, the first person Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shoots that night. He joins the fight against the armed civilians … … as other protesters tried to stop him. Rosenbaum has just been released from the hospital after undergoing mental health treatment. His reasons for being here are unclear, and he doesn’t appear to have attended a protest before. But his actions on this night will add to an already volatile situation. At this point, the group of protesters has thinned out even more. “All of this is done pretty much in the name of Black Lives Matter, and there is definitely Black people in the crowd. But there definitely was more white people.” The armed men chalk up any conflict with the protesters to miscommunication. “We had some negative interactions. But that was more of a confusion on their part about what we were about.” But many of the protesters feel uncomfortable with the armed presence. They accuse Balch and others of playing vigilante. “Why else are you going to show up — especially Kyle Rittenhouse — show up to a city you don’t even [expletive] live in, armed to the [expletive] teeth to protect your community? This is not your community, pal. You don’t live here.” “You’re welcome.” But the police praise the armed men, and offer them assistance. “This is not the group of people we want here. But you can open carry weapons. So there wasn’t a violation of the law.” But just like the protesters, the armed civilians are violating the curfew … “Thank you.” … and police treat them much differently. Reporter: “After that curfew, it didn’t seem like police was trying to actively disperse or arrest any of the armed civilians. Why is that?” “I am not aware of any of the protesters that weren’t being violent that were arrested either. Peaceful people were not getting arrested that night.” The armed men appear emboldened by the inaction of the police towards them. Minutes after encountering the officers, Rittenhouse explains to a reporter from the Daily Caller why he thinks he belongs in Kenosha. It’s about 15 minutes until he’ll fire his first shot. At this point, several of the people we’ve been hearing from are now close to each other, and the situation is about to turn deadly. Nathan Peet is filming from here. Hannah Gittings and her boyfriend, Anthony Huber, are nearby. Koerri Washington is here. His footage captures both Gaige Grosskreutz and Ryan Balch walking by. Then, Kyle Rittenhouse runs past his camera. “I had been looking kind of at him the entire time because he looked young, he had a gun. So at the point where I see him run by me, I was like, that’s weird. So I followed down in that direction. Rittenhouse walks towards a parking lot where cars are being vandalized. He passes Joseph Rosenbaum, who was fighting with the armed men at the gas station, earlier. Rosenbaum now starts chasing Rittenhouse, and throws a plastic bag that holds his belongings from the hospital. Close behind them, a man holds up a handgun and fires it. [gunshot] We don’t know why. Then Rosenbaum lunges towards Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse fires four times. [gunshots] “Had I been in his shoes getting chased, and then I heard a gunshot, I can’t say that I would have done anything differently.” Rosenbaum, who’s been hit, falls to the ground. [gunshots] There are three more shots from someone else in the parking lot. “Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. And I was like, oh, so they are really shooting.” “Oh, man. Maybe they really are really just trying to kill people. And if they were going to take advantage of a situation, I’m a Black person. And there is — I don’t want to be a target.” Rittenhouse calls a friend while others are helping Rosenbaum, who’s on the ground. Then, he flees the scene. “He didn’t disarm himself after the first shooting. He continued to run around. As a gun owner, I view his actions as completely irresponsible.” “You come running through looking wild with a gun on you, people are going to think that you’re doing something wild with a gun on you. So they reacted the way they should have reacted.” “And as soon as they were all saying he shot somebody, Anthony was gone. And I tried to grab onto him. And nobody was going to stop him, you know? And then I hear a bunch more gunshots down the road. And I was like, I just had a feeling. I just had a feeling it was him.” Rittenhouse trips and falls. Anthony Huber hits Rittenhouse with a skateboard, and attempts to disarm him. Rittenhouse shoots him in the chest. Here is Gaige Grosskreutz with his gun drawn. He also gets shot and calls out for help. “The reality of it is, is this is going to be a part of my life from here on out.” Rittenhouse runs toward police vehicles and raises his hands. The police make no attempt to stop him, and he isn’t arrested until the next day. “I didn’t talk to them, but I’m sure they didn’t know what this person was doing.” “I was looking for my partner. Like, I’m just trying to find where he went. I knew he had been shot, you know. And then later on I saw that video. They had pulled Anthony into that truck like minutes before I got there.” Both Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber died from their injuries. “Anthony Huber, man, he went down like a hero, you know. That’s — he thought there was a threat there, and he was reacting to it. And he just wasn’t quick enough to react to that threat. And so I mean, he got a really good death out of that.” “He was 26. He had like — it’s just like brutally cruel and unfair how that can be snatched away like that by anybody who feels like it. Yeah. It’s awful. It’s awful. And there’s no — there’s no words to say to like, make that feel any better.” “I believe truly in my heart that if it wasn’t for my actions, and these brave men and women who answered my call to arms, I think that we would have seen a way worse outcome than what we saw.” Reporter: “But two people died.” “Yeah, two people died, and that’s terrible. But when you have people burning down buildings, there’s always that chance life is going to be lost.” “Who were the good guys and who were the bad guys that night? I don’t think there were any. I think the militia guys and the protesters were just individuals who were stuck in a situation, and were doing the best they could with it.” “Kyle came here, and he played cowboy. He played vigilante. He came here looking for a confrontation, and he found one.” “Who’s responsible? I can’t tell you. You know, I guess everyone who was there that night holds some level of responsibility. And who carries the most, I can’t tell you.” “Why didn’t you guys arrest him right then and there? Because if it would have been one of us, things would have happened a lot faster and a lot differently.” “Some people feel like Kyle Rittenhouse is a hero, and some people feel like he is a murderer. I feel personally that the situation, regardless of what was happening, should have resulted in something completely different and not people dying.”
In the months leading up to Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial for killing two people, we analyzed hours of footage and interviewed key witnesses from that fatal night in Kenosha, Wis., to understand how the country’s polarization set the scene for violence.CreditCredit…Anadolu Agency, via Reuters
It was impossible to find a juror in Kenosha, a former factory town on the shore of Lake Michigan, who was unfamiliar with the contours of what happened: When Judge Schroeder asked if there was anyone in the pool of jurors who had not heard of the Rittenhouse case, not a single person raised a hand.
Demonstrations erupted in Kenosha in August 2020 after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black resident, seven times in the back during an arrest. For several days, protesters of police violence thronged Kenosha by the thousands, and rioters burned buildings and looted businesses, overwhelming police officers and National Guardsmen.
The third night of protests turned deadly when Mr. Rittenhouse, who was then 17, came to Kenosha with a military-style semiautomatic rifle and joined a group of people who said they were there to help keep order on the streets. Within hours, Mr. Rittenhouse had shot and killed two men and wounded a third during a confrontation.
Anthony Huber, 26, and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, were both killed by Kyle Rittenhouse last year.Credit…Carlos Javier Ortiz for The New York Times
Mr. Rittenhouse’s defense lawyers are expected to make an argument that he shot the men in self-defense after being chased in a parking lot by Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, the first man Mr. Rittenhouse shot and killed; he was then pursued by more members of the crowd, including Anthony Huber, 26. The prosecutors have described a different version of events, arguing in pretrial hearings that Mr. Rittenhouse was an outside agitator from Illinois who was bent on violence, arriving in Kenosha with a rifle he was not legally allowed to possess.
During jury selection, several prospective jurors said they had painful memories of the nights of protest and violence in their region, expressing fear and anxiety over the precautions they had taken as dozens of businesses were damaged and burned. And they worried that the verdict the jury eventually reached would be met with anger.
“I really want to serve on a jury. I really don’t want to serve on this jury,” one woman said. “Either way this goes, you’re going to have half the country upset with you.”
Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial began Tuesday morning with a prosecutor portraying the teenager as a tourist who inserted himself into fiery unrest in Kenosha last year and initiated the confrontation that led him to shoot three men, killing two of them.
“Like moths to a flame, tourists from outside our community were drawn to the chaos,” said Thomas Binger, an assistant district attorney, in his opening statement.
Mr. Binger pointed to Mr. Rittenhouse as he said, “The evidence will show that the only person who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse.”
Mr. Rittenhouse, who was 17 and living in Antioch, Ill., at the time of the shootings, faces charges including first-degree intentional homicide.
Mr. Rittenhouse’s lawyers have said they will make a self-defense case for their client, and the case will turn on the question of whether Mr. Rittenhouse reasonably believed he had to fire a weapon to avoid being badly hurt or killed. Again and again, Mr. Binger returned to the fact that the only killings that occurred during several days of unrest in Kenosha were committed by Mr. Rittenhouse.
“When we consider the reasonableness of the defendant’s actions, I ask you to keep that in mind,” he said.
Mr. Binger largely focused on the first shooting that took place, of Joseph Rosenbaum. Mr. Binger said the evidence would show that the fatal shot hit Mr. Rosenbaum in the back after he fell forward following earlier shots to his pelvis and leg.
The prosecutor said infrared video taken from an airplane by the F.B.I. that evening will show that Mr. Rittenhouse chased Mr. Rosenbaum before shooting him. He noted also that Mr. Rittenhouse was carrying a medical kit, but fled after shooting Mr. Rosenbaum as others tried to offer emergency assistance.
Mr. Rittenhouse, dressed in a dark suit with a maroon shirt and tie in court on Tuesday, looked on quietly as the trial got underway, occasionally yawning.
— Dan Hinkel
The lead lawyer representing Kyle Rittenhouse is Mark Richards, 59, a veteran defense lawyer and former prosecutor who has spent his career in Kenosha and Racine, Wis., primarily representing people accused of drug crimes and murder.
He joined Mr. Rittenhouse’s legal team in September 2020, but took charge of the defense in January 2020, replacing John Pierce, a lawyer who had helped Mr. Rittenhouse raise money for his case and counts members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers militia among his clients.
Mr. Richards, a Wisconsin native, has worked as a lawyer for 34 years, first as a prosecutor in the Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office, then in Racine. According to his biography, he has tried more than 100 jury trials.
The notable defendants he has represented include Tyler Huffhines, who was arrested in 2019 and accused of running a black-market vaping operation in Kenosha County with his brother. In 1999, Mr. Richards defended a Racine jail inmate who was accused of choking his cellmate to death. The case against the defendant, Kurtis King, was dismissed after a separate investigation found evidence of misconduct by the prison guards.
He also successfully defended Jaime Rojas, a Racine resident who was accused of murdering his wife. Mr. Rojas insisted that his wife, who suffered from depression, had shot herself; Mr. Richards and an investigator found a bullet embedded in an attic floor that detectives had missed. The evidence forced Racine prosecutors to drop charges against Mr. Rojas.
Another lawyer on the legal team for Mr. Rittenhouse, Corey Chirafisi, is based in Madison, Wis. Mr. Chirafisi met Mr. Richards years ago when they faced off in court: Mr. Chirafisi was prosecuting a man accused of robbing a bank, and Mr. Richards was defending him. Mr. Chirafisi prevailed, and the defendant was found guilty.
Here are the six charges Kyle Rittenhouse faces in the trial, numbered the way they are in the criminal complaint, which does not list them in order of severity (the most severe is Count 3).
Five are felony counts; one is a misdemeanor. For each of the felonies, the complaint lists an aggravating factor that could add to the basic sentence if he is convicted.
First-degree reckless homicide
Under Wisconsin law, this crime is defined as recklessly causing the death of another human being under circumstances that show utter disregard for human life. It is not necessary for prosecutors to prove intent to kill. (Charges that are generally known as murder counts in other states are called homicides under Wisconsin law.)
Mr. Rittenhouse is accused of this crime in connection with the fatal shooting of Joseph D. Rosenbaum. It is a Class B felony carrying a basic sentence of up to 60 years in prison.
Counts 2 and 5
First-degree recklessly endangering safety
The law defines this crime as recklessly endangering another person’s safety under circumstances that show utter disregard for human life.
Mr. Rittenhouse is charged with recklessly endangering two people who, according to the criminal complaint, had shots fired toward them but were not hit: Richard McGinnis and an unknown male seen in video of the episode.
The crime is a class F felony that carries a basic sentence of up to 12 and a half years in prison, a fine of up to $25,000, or both, for each of the two counts.
First-degree intentional homicide
The crime, analogous to first-degree murder in other states, is defined as causing the death of another human being with intent to kill that person or someone else, without the presence of certain mitigating circumstances specified in the law.
Mr. Rittenhouse faces this charge in connection with the fatal shooting of Anthony M. Huber. It is a Class A felony that carries a basic sentence of life in prison.
Attempted first-degree intentional homicide
Attempting to commit first-degree intentional homicide is a Class B felony under Wisconsin law.
Mr. Rittenhouse faces this charge in connection with the shooting of Gaige P. Grosskreutz, who was struck and wounded. It carries a basic sentence of up to 60 years in prison.
Possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18
Though Wisconsin is an “open-carry” state where it is legal for adults to carry firearms openly, state law prohibits minors from doing so. Mr. Rittenhouse was 17 at the time of the shooting.
This crime is a Class A misdemeanor that carries a basic sentence of up to nine months in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Use of a dangerous weapon
A provision of Wisconsin law extends the maximum sentence for crimes committed while possessing, using or threatening to use a dangerous weapon. The criminal complaint invokes this provision for all five felony counts; in each case, it could add up to five years to the prison sentence for that count, if Mr. Rittenhouse is convicted.
The actions of two men who were killed and another who was wounded by Kyle Rittenhouse during unrest in Kenosha, Wis., last year will be scrutinized as part of Mr. Rittenhouse’s trial because of his claim that he had fired in self-defense. Jurors are expected to see video of the events before the shootings and may hear testimony from the man who survived.
Here is what we know about the people who were killed or wounded:
It is unclear why Joseph Rosenbaum, a 36-year-old from Kenosha, was on the street that night, but The Washington Post has reported that he had been released from a hospital hours earlier after a suicide attempt.
Mr. Rosenbaum, the first person shot, lunged at an armed Mr. Rittenhouse shortly after another man fired a handgun into the air, according to a witness. Mr. Rosenbaum was unarmed and prosecutors plan to argue that Mr. Rittenhouse chased him before the shooting.
Anthony Huber, who lived in Kenosha County, came downtown with his girlfriend to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake, one of Mr. Huber’s casual acquaintances, said Anand Swaminathan, a lawyer for his family.
Mr. Huber, 26, was an avid skateboarder, and video shows him hitting Mr. Rittenhouse, who had fallen to the ground, with his skateboard after Mr. Rosenbaum was shot. Mr. Huber’s lawyers, who are suing the authorities in Kenosha, wrote in a lawsuit that their client was trying to prevent more shootings.
“Anthony Huber is a hero,” the lawsuit reads. “He attempted to disarm Rittenhouse, end the gunfire, stop the bloodshed and protect his fellow citizens.”
Gaige Grosskreutz, of West Allis, Wis., was volunteering as a medic when he approached Mr. Rittenhouse with a handgun drawn as Mr. Huber was being shot.
Mr. Grosskreutz, 27, survived the shooting but lost 90 percent of his right biceps, according to a lawsuit he filed against the local authorities. His lawyer, Kimberley Motley, declined to discuss details of his life or the night’s events.
— Dan Hinkel
Bruce Schroeder, the longest-serving circuit court judge in Wisconsin, is presiding over the homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse.
During a pretrial hearing, Judge Schroeder, 75, said he believes that he has seen more homicide trials than any other judge in the state. He graduated from Marquette Law School in 1970, worked as a prosecutor and began serving as a circuit judge in 1983.
His longevity is a subject of frequent conversation in the courtroom. As he said during jury selection on Monday, he has been “in this business for 50 years.”
In Kenosha legal circles, Judge Schroeder has a reputation for strictness in sentencing. He is known for delivering lectures to prospective jurors about their civic duty, which on Monday he likened to serving as an American soldier in Vietnam.
He frequently complains about media bias and the impact that news coverage can have on prospective jurors. As Judge Schroeder quizzed prospective jurors on Monday, he said that he has read news articles on the Rittenhouse case and has asked himself whether he was in the same courtroom that was described in the articles.
He has also acknowledged that some of the topics raised in pretrial hearings are new to him. Until this case, Judge Schroeder said in a hearing, he had never heard of the Proud Boys, a far-right group that offered support to Mr. Rittenhouse after the Kenosha shootings, and was unfamiliar with the “O.K.” hand sign as a gesture that has been co-opted by white supremacists.
“The first time I saw it, or a version of it, was Chef Boyardee on a can of spaghetti,” the judge said.
In one of the judge’s highest-profile cases, the 2008 murder trial of Mark Jensen — who was accused of poisoning his wife, Julie, with antifreeze and then smothering her in their garage — a conviction was overturned when appellate courts and the state Supreme Court ruled that Judge Schroeder had improperly allowed evidence in the trial.
The judge allowed the prosecution to present a letter that Julie Jensen had written and given to a neighbor, as well as voice mail messages she left for a police officer, suggesting that if anything happened to her, her husband would be responsible. Mr. Jensen will face a new trial next year.
He signed up to be a cadet in a program for teenagers who aspire to be police officers. He filled his Facebook page with support for Blue Lives Matter. He sat up front at a rally for President Donald J. Trump, and posted images of it on TikTok. And he chose to mark his 16th birthday by raising funds for a support group for the police called Humanizing the Badge.
Now, Kyle H. Rittenhouse faces trial in the fatal shootings of Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and the wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz, in the aftermath of street protests last year in Kenosha, Wis.
Mr. Rittenhouse, now 18, had come to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Ill., a 30-minute drive away, where he lived with his mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, a nurse’s aide, in an apartment complex.
Before the shootings, Mr. Rittenhouse had two profiles on TikTok. On one, he posted a picture from a rally for Mr. Trump in Iowa. On the other, he posted support for Blue Lives Matter, guns and Mr. Trump. “Bruh, I’m just tryna be famous,” he wrote in his bio summary on the account, which had attracted 26 followers.
One account featured a video of him shooting a semiautomatic rifle and assembling a rifle. That account also linked to several Blue Lives Matter accounts, one with Confederate imagery.
His Facebook profile, deactivated soon after his arrest, overflowed with content lauding Blue Lives Matter.
His mother posted pictures of him while he was enrolled in a cadet program for aspiring firefighters in Antioch. He had served as a cadet in a public safety program run by local police. Mr. Rittenhouse had also worked as a part-time lifeguard at a Y.M.C.A., before he was furloughed. A manager at Culver’s, a Midwest hamburger chain, said he had worked there briefly but it was “not a good fit.”
He faced a similar hurdle with the U.S. Marine Corps, contacting recruiters before being found to be disqualified for service, said Capt. Joseph A. Butterfield, a spokesman, who declined to comment further.
The prosecution of Kyle Rittenhouse will be led by Thomas Binger, a Kenosha County assistant district attorney who has at times clashed with the judge during hearings leading up to the trial.
Mr. Binger is a seven-year veteran of an office run by Michael Graveley, the county’s top prosecutor, and has also worked in the Milwaukee County prosecutor’s office and for private law firms, according to an online resume.
In 2016, he ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for district attorney in neighboring Racine County, telling The Journal Times: “In the last two years as a prosecutor, I have won 13 jury trials. I have convicted murderers, rapists, child molesters, drug dealers, drunk drivers, home-invading burglars and men who abuse women.”
Hearings in the Rittenhouse case have been punctuated by pointed disagreements between Mr. Binger and Judge Bruce Schroeder of Kenosha County Circuit Court. Last week, Judge Schroeder denied prosecution motions aimed at limiting the defense from portraying the men Mr. Rittenhouse shot as destructive and violent.
Mr. Binger argued that defense lawyers should not be able to tell jurors that one of the men who died, Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, had committed destructive acts, saying of Mr. Rosenbaum’s action during the protests in Kenosha: “All we’re talking about is arson. We’re talking about being loud and disorderly.”
The judge cut him off and raised his voice. “I can’t believe some of what you’re saying,” Judge Schroeder said. “All we’re talking about is arson? Come on!”
Through a spokesman, Mr. Binger declined to comment.
When the top prosecutor, Mr. Graveley, was asked why he was not personally handling the high-profile Rittenhouse case, he said that he had been busy with an investigation into the police shooting of Jacob Blake at the time Mr. Rittenhouse was charged.
Mr. Graveley added that he was handling another murder trial that was expected to start during the Rittenhouse trial.
— Dan Hinkel
As Kyle Rittenhouse faces trial for fatally shooting two men and wounding a third in the aftermath of street protests last year in Kenosha, Wis., his fate could hinge on whether jurors accept his lawyers’ central argument — that he had to fire to protect himself.
His lawyers have not disputed the basic facts of the case:
Mr. Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, fired on three men with a military-style semiautomatic rifle. Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, were killed. And Gaige Grosskreutz, who was 26 at the time, was wounded.
In pretrial hearings, Mr. Rittenhouse’s lawyers have argued that he acted within the law when he fired on the men.
In Wisconsin, as in other states, to avoid being killed or badly hurt, a person can lawfully shoot someone who is attacking them. The state law specifically holds that a person can fire if he or she “reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself.”
In interviews, lawyers in Wisconsin said defense lawyers must clear only a relatively low bar before a judge puts a self-defense claim before a jury. Once that happens, jurors are asked to determine whether prosecutors met their burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not have the right to fire in self-defense.
Jurors in these cases typically receive detailed instructions from the judge explaining the laws at play, including guidelines for interpreting a crucial term — “reasonably.”
The state template for jury instructions states that a belief can be reasonable despite being mistaken, and a belief is reasonable if it is “what a person of ordinary intelligence and prudence would have believed in the defendant’s position under the circumstances that existed at the time of the alleged offense.”
“The ultimate issue is, what was going on in his head?” said Kirk Obear, a defense lawyer in Milwaukee who is not involved in the case.
Even with the instructions jurors receive, the question of what is reasonable is subject to jurors’ own interpretation.
“This is an exercise in the humanities — not the sciences,” said Tom Grieve, a defense lawyer in suburban Milwaukee.
— Dan Hinkel