Kenosha County, WI – Kyle Rittenhouse took the witness stand in his own defense at his murder trial on Wednesday and told the jury that he fired his weapon during the Jacob Blake riots because he was defending his own life.
The eighth day of the trial was marked by a series of stops and starts as Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger repeatedly brought up topics and evidence that had already been ruled out by the judge.
The defense clearly surprised prosecutors when they put the 18-year-old Rittenhouse on the stand on Nov. 10 because Binger had to ask for a break to go back to his office first.
Kenosha Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder exploded several minutes into the state’s cross-examination of Rittenhouse after the assistant district attorney implied the teen had done something wrong by not explaining his actions that day ahead of the trial.
Schroeder also upheld an objection the defense had made to questions that Binger asked Rittenhouse about his beliefs and opinions.
The judge said he had ruled against that material in a prior motion and also reprimanded Binger for a second time during the cross-examination for having referenced the defendant’s pre-trial silence.
More than once, Rittenhouse defense attorney Mark Richards threatened to move for a mistrial with prejudice and suggested the judge should take the initiative on his own to do so.
If such a request was granted, the state would not be able to refile the same charges against Rittenhouse at a later date.
Schroeder warned the assistant district attorney that he was dangerously close to the line.
The exchange between the prosecutor and the judge became heated, with Binger admonishing his honor for interrupting him more than once.
Schroeder warned Binger, not for the first time, that he was dangerously close to violating Rittenhouse’s Constitutional rights, and raised his voice to yell at the assistant district attorney at least three times.
Critics have said that prosecutors were not winning the case even before the defense’s case began.
On Nov. 10, one of the men whom Rittenhouse shot that night testified that he had pointed his gun at the teenager before the boy shot him, CNN reported.
“When you were standing three to five feet from him with your arms up in the air, he never fired, right?” defense attorney Corey Chirafisi asked Gaige Grosskreutz, whom Rittenhouse shot in the right bicep.
“Correct,” Grosskreutz said.
“It wasn’t until you pointed your gun at him, advanced on him with your gun — now your hand is down pointed at him — that he fired, right?” Chirafisi asked.
“Correct,” Grosskreutz responded.
Grosskreutz testified that he was carrying a pistol concealed that night even though his conceal carried permit was expired, CNN reported.
He also admitted that he lied to investigators when he claimed his gun had fallen out of his pants earlier in the evening.
Rittenhouse, for his part, fell apart in sobs on the stand when he was being walked through the shootings on the stand.
“I did what I had to do to stop the person who was attacking me,” the 18 year old told the jury.
“By killing them?” Binger asked.
“Two of them passed away but I stopped the threat from attacking me,” Rittenhouse replied.
“By using deadly force?” Binger asked.
“I used deadly force,” Rittenhouse answered the prosecutor. “… I didn’t know if it was going to kill them. But I used deadly force to stop the threat that was attacking me.”
Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to six felony charges, including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and first-degree attempted intentional homicide.
The teen’s attorneys have said the shootings occurred when he was in Kenosha to help clean graffiti off school buildings that had been vandalized during the anti-police riots when a friend asked him to help provide security for a car dealership.
Rittenhouse, then 17 years old, brought a medic kit and an AR-15 rifle that a friend had purchased for him with his stimulus check and told reporters on the scene he was there to help anybody who was hurt.
At one point, he left the dealership to provide medical aid to a protester and then found himself blocked from returning to where his friends were.
His attorneys have said Rittenhouse was pursued through the streets of Kenosha and shot three people – killing two – in self-defense.