Prosecutors in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial rest their case: NPR

Kyle Rittenhouse returns to court after a break during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse on November 9, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

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Kyle Rittenhouse returns to court after a break during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse on November 9, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Pool / Getty Images

Prosecutors have rested their case in the murder case against Kyle Rittenhouse, who is charged with two murders and another attempted murder during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year.

Rittenhouse, now 18, shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and injured Gaige Grosskreutz during a protest against racial justice on the night of August 25, 2020. Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Legal experts say the outcome of the case may ultimately come down to how well the prosecution put forward its central argument – that Rittenhouse was the attacker of the violence and not just acting in self-defense, as he claims.

Jessa Nicholson Goetz, a private defense attorney in Madison who represented Rittenhouse for nine days before leaving the case in September 2020, said prosecutors did not make that case particularly forceful.

“I’m only a lawyer, but in my opinion not very well, no,” she told NPR.

With the trial now moved to Rittenhouse’s defense team, here are three key moments from the prosecution’s case that may prove crucial:

A witness testified that one of the victims went after Rittenhouse’s gun

Richard McGinnis, a video producer with the right-wing news site The Daily Caller, testified that he saw one of the victims reach for Rittenhouse’s gun before he was shot.

McGinnis said he saw Rosenbaum throw himself at Rittenhouse’s rifle, at which point Rittenhouse escaped and fired four times. Video evidence of the meeting between Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum is sparse, which is why McGinnis’ testimony may be crucial.

Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger suggested McGinnis could not know what Rosenbaum was trying to do when he threw himself at Rittenhouse.

But McGinnis replied, “Well, he said ‘f *** you,’ and he reached for the weapon.”

During his opening statement, Binger also admitted that Rosenbaum had acted “excited” and “got people in the face” the night the protest took place. But he tried to emphasize an important distinction – that it was only Rittenhouse who reacted with deadly force that night.

The only survivor testified that he raised his gun to Rittenhouse

Grosskreutz, the only surviving victim in the case, took a stand on the prosecution and described what happened in the moment before he was shot.

But Nicholson Goetz said prosecutors failed to mention during their interrogation that Grosskreutz did not tell police he was carrying a Glock pistol at the time – a point that emerged in cross-examination during interrogation of the defense.

Grosskreutz, a trained physician, testified that when he heard the shots that killed Rosenbaum, he ran toward the sound.

As Grosskreutz got closer, Rittenhouse was confronted by Anthony Huber, who hit him with a skateboard. Rittenhouse shot and then killed Huber.

Grosskreutz told defense attorneys that he had raised his gun and was approaching Rittenhouse the moment he was shot. He said he did not intentionally point the weapon at Rittenhouse.

“I never tried to kill the defendant,” he testified. He said he did not draw the gun “with the express intention of using it”, but rather to be “ready” if he felt it was necessary.

“The prosecution chose to make the most advantageous version of the direct investigation – and he is the star witness because he is, of course, the surviving victim here – as they could have put a marginally less convincing direct [examination] but one that accounted for all the minefields that the defense was about to trigger, “Nicholson Goetz said.

The confrontation between Huber and Rittenhouse

Earlier, in opening statements, defense attorney Mark Richards seized on the confrontation between Huber and Rittenhouse, saying Huber had swung the skateboard toward his client in an attempt to “separate his head from his body.” The prosecutors protested, but the judge denied it.

Craig Mastantuono, a law professor at Marquette University, previously told NPR that while the pre-trial coverage probably made it harder for the state to raise its case, prosecutors were able to cast reasonable doubt on Rittenhouse’s claims of self-defense.

“The prosecution did a pretty decent job of putting a context to it by drawing a contrast between Mr Rittenhouse and everyone else at these events and repeatedly saying he was the only one killing people,” Mastantuono said.

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