Defense attorneys suggested Wednesday that the prosecution in Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial was intentionally trying to cause a mistrial, and the judge forgot to silence his phone after lunch, regaling the courtroom briefly with his ringtone: Lee Greenwood’s country anthem, “God Bless the U.S.A.”
Rittenhouse was 17 when he crossed state lines to Kenosha, Wisconsin, with his AR-style rifle and a medic bag, intending to protect property against protesters who were in the streets after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a black man, seven times in the back, as CrimeOnline previously reported.
In the course of the night of August 25, 2020, he shot and killed two people and wounded another, claiming self-defense.
Rittenhouse, now 18, took the stand Wednesday morning, sobbing uncontrollably until Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder called a recess, the Associated Press reported.
Prosecutor Thomas Binger was hard on Rittenhouse during cross-examination, walking him through each shooting while Rittenhouse insisted he had no choice but to fire at Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, and Gaige Grosskreutz.
Rittenhouse told the court he killed Rosenbaum after he had threatened to kill him earlier and put a hand on his rifle.
“If I would have let Mr. Rosenbaum take my firearm from me, he would have used it and killed me with it,” he said, “and probably killed more people.”
Rittenhouse admitted under cross-examination, however, that his rifle was secured by a strap and he had both hands on it, and Binder suggested Rosenbaum could have been trying to knock the gun away, not take it. The teen said he shot and killed Huber after he hit him in the neck with a skateboard, and that he wounded Grosskruetz because he came at him “with his pistol pointed directly at my head.”
Grosskreutz, who testified earlier this week, said he was carrying his handgun when he approached Rittenhouse, who had already shot two people.
But when Binger asked about Rittenhouse’s silence after his arrest, Schroeder got angry, and defense attorney Corey Chirafisi asked for a dismissal with prejudice — meaning Rittenhouse could not be tried again. Schroeder sent the jury out of the room and told Binger he was pursuing an improper line of questioning — and accused him of trying to introduce a video Schroeder had said he would likely prohibit. That video, shot two weeks before the shootings, shows Rittenhouse watching men leaving a drugstore and commenting that he believes they are shoplifters and that if he had his rifle he would shoot them.
Schroeder didn’t immediately rule on the request for a dismissal, and he told the jury they could expect closing arguments next week.
Coming back from lunch, Kyle Rittenhouse's defense team argues that the prosecution is purposely aiming for a mistrial.
Meanwhile, the judge's phone rings. The ringtone is Lee Greenwood's patriotic anthem "God Bless the U.S.A" pic.twitter.com/xGY3dJd4e4
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) November 10, 2021
Before that argument, after lunch, Schroeder’s ringtone blasted through the courtroom, the Daily Beast reported. Greenwood’s song has become ubiquitous at conservative gatherings, especially after the September 11 terrorist attacks, and was used as Donald Trump’s entrance song during his rallies.
Earlier Schroeder had barred prosecutors from presenting evidence linking Rittenhouse to the violent, far-right extremist group Proud Boys or calling the three men Rittenhouse shot “victims.” He did allow defense attorneys to call them “looters” and “rioters.”
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[Featured image: Kyle Rittenhouse breaks down on the stand on Wednesday. (Mark Hertzberg /Pool Photo via AP)]