What is the significance of “handbrake” in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial in Wisconsin?
Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty by a Kenosha jury of all charges on November 19, 2021. Read more about the verdict here.
HandBrake relates to video compression software that Internet sleuths claim they spotted on the laptop of Rittenhouse prosecutor Jim Kraus. Why does that matter?
There is a dispute over a drone video that is key to the case; the defense claims the prosecutors, including Kraus, gave them a compressed, smaller, and worse quality video than prosecutors used.
The video’s size is an issue because the defense filed a motion asking Judge Bruce Schroeder to grant a mistrial with prejudice. A key part of that motion deals with a late-produced drone video that shows the first shooting scene. The defense alleges that prosecutors gave them a worse quality drone video than they used; this is important because the state is basing a key argument on the video.
That would mean that prosecutors could not try the case again. Schroeder said in court that he might not rule on the motion until after a verdict.
On November 18, 2021, the jury entered its third day of deliberations in the contentious case. Rittenhouse is claiming he acted in self-defense when he shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz. The prosecution has charged him with homicide and other serious charges.
Here’s what you need to know:
Prosecutors Deny Purposely Compressing the Defense Video
Does the handbrake controversy prove Kraus or lead prosecutor Thomas Binger compressed the video using it? No. Internet sleuths are connecting dots in a way that is not proven. It’s possible he has the software for other purpose. However, handbrake quickly became a Twitter trend.
As one Twitter user noted, “Handbrake can be used to simply save a file as a new format. Is that editing? Simply having a program doesn’t mean he knows how to use it or used it nefariously.”
According to Fox News, the prosecution said they didn’t intend to give the defense the compressed video but it accidentally occurred when they moved it from an iPhone to an Android.
“They could have asked for a thumb drive, they could have asked for whatever,” Assistant District Attorney James Kraus said, according to Fox. “We’re not responsible for that.”
“HandBrake is a tool for converting video from nearly any format to a selection of modern, widely supported codecs.
Reasons you’ll love HandBrake:
Convert video from nearly any format
Free and Open Source
Multi-Platform (Windows, Mac and Linux).”
The Defense Claims the Prosecution Gave Them a Smaller, Compressed Video
The defense claimed in a motion that the video “wasn’t provided to the defense until after the trial concluded” by the state.
On day 5 of the trial, the prosecution “turned over to the defense footage of a drone video which captured some of the incident from Aug. 25, 2020,” the defense attorneys wrote in their motion. “The problem is, the prosecution gave the defense a compressed version of the video. What that means is the video provided to the defense was not as clear as the video kept by the state.
They say the dimensions on the defense video are 480 X 212; the prosecution’s is 1920 X 844. The motion was filed by lawyers Mark Richards and Corey Chirafisi, who are the lawyers for Rittenhouse.
The state is trying to use the drone video to convince jurors that Rittenhouse provoked Joseph Rosenbaum to chase him by pointing a gun at another man, Joseph Ziminski, which would make it tougher for him to prove self-defense under Wisconsin law. The defense denies that he pointed the gun and says the prosecution video and screenshots from it are too blurry to tell.
The defense motion claims that, during jury instructions, the state came up with a much clearer video to show the judge, who was considering whether to include the state’s provocation argument in jury instructions. He ultimately decided to do so, but raised concerns about the blurriness of the photos taken from the video.
The state “did not provide their quality video to the defense until Nov. 13, 2021, and only upon a specific request – two days before closing arguments and after the evidence had been closed,” the defense motion said. They claim the prosecution did this intentionally, which prosecutors deny.
Schroeder has indicated in court that he wants to put people under oath to explain the differences in the disputed video, which jurors asked to see during their deliberations.
The defense motion states: “The video footage has been at the center of this case. “The idea that the state would provide lesser quality footage and then use that footage as a linchpin in their case and it is the very reason they requested and were granted the provocation instruction by the court. The failure to provide the same quality footage in this particular case is intentional and clearly prejudices the defendant.”