Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all counts against him – including two homicide charges – by a Kenosha County jury in Wisconsin. Here is a Rittenhouse trial review.
The reaction to the verdict was furiously divided, as this entire case has been. The state needed to show that Rittenhouse, 18, did NOT reasonably fear imminent death or great bodily harm when he shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz. He was also charged with two recklessly endangering safety counts involving other men. He was acquitted on them all.
The first man shot, Rosenbaum, was captured on video chasing Rittenhouse into the corner of a car lot; after shooting Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse ran down the street toward the police and fell. At that point, he was kicked by a man who rushed him, and then was rushed next by Anthony Huber, who hit him with a skateboard and tried to grab his gun. He then shot Gaige Grosskreutz, wounding him, when Grosskreutz, according to his own testimony, advanced toward Rittenhouse with a gun. These scenes were all captured on video.
There are competing narratives in this case; some, for example, are critical of the judge, Bruce Schroeder, for pretrial rulings they felt favored the defense (such as not allowing the shot men to be called victims but allowing them to be called arsonists, looters or rioters), although Schroeder did make some big rulings that favored the prosecution too (such as ruling defense attorneys couldn’t present the criminal history of Rosenbaum, who was a convicted child molester, and allowing the jury to consider the state’s argument that Rittenhouse provoked Rosenbaum to chase him, which the defense hotly contested.) You can read a story exploring the judge’s rulings and comments here.
This story, though, will focus on evidence presented in case.
Why was Rittenhouse found not guilty?
Here are 8 key moments that hurt the prosecution in the Kyle Rittenhouse case.
1. The Testimony of Gaige Grosskreutz & the Photo of the ‘Vaporized Bicep’
Gaige Grosskreutz is the only man shot by Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who lived to tell the tale.
On the week of November 8, 2021, Grosskreutz took the witness stand in the trial of Rittenhouse. He was one of the prosecution’s star witnesses, the only person who was shot by Rittenhouse who did not die.
Key testimony came when Grosskreutz testified that Rittenhouse’s gunshot “vaporized” his bicep, and prosecutors presented a frame from a video that they said showed he was pointing his gun at Rittenhouse at close range at that moment (see above).
“I thought the defendant was an active shooter,” Grosskreutz testified, explaining why he approached Rittenhouse with a gun drawn after Rittenhouse had fallen on the street. However, things fell apart for the state in cross-examination.
During cross-examination, Grosskreutz admitted pointing a gun at Rittenhouse when Rittenhouse shot him.
“It wasn’t until you pointed your gun at him, advanced on him… that he fired, right?” defense attorney Corey Chirafisi asked Grosskreutz.
“Correct,” said Grosskreutz. He tried to claim at another point that he wasn’t intentionally pointing the gun.
Rittenhouse’s attorneys argued that he shot all three men in self-defense after coming to Kenosha to help protect businesses after others burned in a series of arson fires following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
This is arguably the most important moment from his testimony:
Defense attorney: “You would agree your firearm is pointed at Mr. Rittenhouse correct?”
Defense: “Once your firearm is pointed at Mr. Rittenhouse, that’s when he fires his gun, yes?
Defense: “Sir, look…Does this look like right now your arm is being shot?”
Grosskreutz: “That looks like my bicep being vaporized yes.”
Defense: “It’s being vaporized because you’re pointing a gun directly at him, yes?”
Defense: “When you’re standing 3-5 feet from him with your arms up in the air he never fired. Right?”
Defense: “It wasn’t until you pointed your gun at him, advanced on him with your gun, now your hands down, pointed at him, that he fired, right?”
Another man had also rushed Rittenhouse before Huber moved into the scene.
Watch Grosskreutz’s testimony here.
Asked what was going through his mind, Grosskreutz testified, “that I was going to die.”
He revealed that he was carrying a gun despite having an expired concealed carry permit. On cross examination, the defense attorney asked whether Grosskreutz told police his gun fell off his waist. “I don’t recall,” he said.
“That’s a lie,” said the defense attorney. Grosskreutz denied it was a lie. The defense said, “It was in your hand. You told that to multiple officers (about it falling off his waist).” Grosskreutz responded, “I don’t know.”
He said his civil lawyer was in court.
2. The Testimony of Richie McGinniss & His In-Court Demonstration of Rosenbaum Lunging
Richie McGinniss is the video editor for the Daily Caller. He was running behind Rosenbaum as Rosenbaum chased Rittenhouse.
McGinniss testified on November 4, 2021, for the prosecution, but he only helped build the case for self-defense when he testified that Rosenbaum “lunged” for Rittenhouse’s gun and “threw his momentum toward the weapon.”
“It was very clear to me that he (Rosenbaum) was reaching specifically for the weapon because that’s where his hands went,” McGinniss testified.
In a dramatic display, McGinniss then stood up in court and stretched out his hands, to demonstrate Rosenbaum’s lunge. He said that Rosenbaum was “running as fast as he could” in an “athletic position.”
He also testified that Rittenhouse was aiming the gun down at first.
McGinniss was the only eyewitness to the Rosenbaum shooting. There were two videos that captured it, but his eyewitness testimony gave a human narrative to the videos.
He described Rosenbaum as angry and said that Rosenbaum said “f*** you,” to Rittenhouse and then he reached for the weapon. Rosenbaum was unarmed. A bag he threw at Rittenhouse during the chase was a hospital bag.
“He was going for the barrel of the gun?” asked defense attorney Mark Richards. “Correct,” testified McGinniss.
3. Rittenhouse Breaks Down Crying on the Witness Stand
It’s a gamble to put a defendant on the stand. In the case of Rittenhouse, the gamble paid off because a not guilty verdict resulted.
Rittenhouse broke down on the witness stand. This moment was widely mocked by people opposed to him and in some corners of popular culture, even being featured on Saturday Night Live, where he was compared to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
But Rittenhouse generally helped build his self-defense narrative on the stand, resisting the prosecutor’s attempts to take him in another direction, and his tears may have humanized him with jurors and also helped highlight his age. The defense attorney Mark Richards revealed after the trial that the defense held two mock juries before the trial, with Rittenhouse testifying and without him testifying, and the trial with Rittenhouse testifying went much better for the defense team.
Although calling a defendant to the stand is almost always a risky proposition for a defense team, in self-defense cases it can be necessary because the jury will be instructed that self-defense requires a showing that Rittenhouse reasonably believed his life or that of another was in imminent danger or that they were in imminent danger of great bodily harm.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself,” he testified.
He added, “I brought the gun to protect myself.” Rittenhouse said he thought the bag Rosenbaum threw at him was a chain that Rosenbaum was carrying earlier in the night (he’d been photographed holding it earlier.)
Prosecutor Thomas Binger tried to show that Rittenhouse has lied about things, such as being an EMT. Rittenhouse acknowledged to Binger that he used deadly force.
“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 said, in one example of how he stuck to his self-defense narrative despite the prosecutor’s tough questions.
4. The Graphic Videos & Photos
They are hard to watch because they are so graphic and disturbing and two men lose their life in them. However, the star witness in this case was the video. There were also very dramatic photos in the case. They helped build the case for self-defense because they showed Rosenbaum chasing Rittenhouse and getting close to him before he fired; they showed Huber hitting Rittenhouse with a skateboard and rushing toward him; and they showed Grosskreutz moving toward Rittenhouse with a gun in his hand at close range.
All of the shootings were captured on video by independent videographers. There were two videos in the Rosenbaum shootings, including a last-minute drone video. This video was a clearer version of the Rosenbaum shooting.
See videos in the case here. One captures the moment Rittenhouse shot Grosskreutz.
The video above shows Rittenhouse shooting Rosenbaum, who had chased him into the corner of a used car lot. This video shows Rosenbaum running after Rittenhouse before Rittenhouse shoots him four times and kills him.
Here is the main Rittenhouse video that shows him shooting Huber and Grosskreutz. It is very graphic and is the key video in those shootings. Heavy is providing the link rather than embedding it because YouTube has placed a disturbing content warning screen on the video.
Here’s a link to another even more graphic video from the scene of the Rosenbaum shooting; it shows a dying Rosenbaum lying on the ground as people tend to him. It, too, is very graphic.
Many news outlets have strung together numerous videos to form a chronology. You can see one of those videos above.
Graphic shooting scene photos emerged on Getty Images before the trial; some of them were shown during the trial.
The prosecution said that the FBI recorded a infrared video that captured the shooting scene from more than 8,000 feet up in the air. This was a last-minute video the public didn’t know about, but it also showed Rosenbaum chasing after Rittenhouse.
5. All of the Negative Testimony About Joseph Rosenbaum
Joseph Rosenbaum was the first man shot, but testimony from numerous witnesses, including witnesses called by the prosecution, did not paint him in a good light. He was described as belligerent, agitated, getting in verbal altercations, and, in one disturbing video, using a racial slur.
The jury didn’t learn about his child molestation history or the fact he was out on bail for an assault charge, but the picture they got of Rosenbaum throughout the trial painted him as an aggressor.
Part of the above video was shown to the jury. Rosenbaum, the first man shot by Rittenhouse, is seen a short time before the shooting in a gas station parking lot getting agitated with another person. Rittenhouse is not in this video.
“Shoot me,” Rosenbaum says to someone, using a racial slur. Rosenbaum was released from a hospital on the day of the shooting. The jury did learn that information.
The defense showed the jury a photo of Rosenbaum with a chain the night of the shooting.
Screenshots captured Rosenbaum’s agitation shortly before the shooting.
Rosenbaum was not armed when he was shot.
Rosenbaum is seen in a blue mask in this photo presented by defense attorneys, who say he was seen starting a dumpster on fire.
Rosenbaum had removed his shirt and tied it around his head before chasing Rittenhouse.
6. The Gun Charge Dismissal
The judge dismissed the illegal gun charge against Rittenhouse shortly before jury deliberations. Thus, the jury did not get to consider that charge.
He did so because of the wording of state law. Here is the statute:
948.60 Possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.
(1) In this section, “dangerous weapon” means any firearm, loaded or unloaded; any electric weapon, as defined in s. 941.295 (1c)
(2) (a) Any person under 18 years of age who possesses or goes armed with a dangerous weapon is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.
c) This section applies only to a person under 18 years of age who possesses or is armed with a rifle or a shotgun if the person is in violation of s. 941.28 or is not in compliance with ss. 29.304 and 29.593.
There was no evidence presented that the weapon was short-barreled. That’s 941.28. Even the prosecution conceded it was not short-barreled. The next two pieces say the person must be under 16 and that they can’t have a hunting certificate.
Rittenhouse was 17 at the time of the shootings, although he did not have a hunting certificate. The judge ruled that the AND between 29.304 and 29.593 meant that the state had to satisfy both elements to prevail.
7. The Medical Examiner’s Testimony
A medical examiner testified that Rosenbaum was shot four times; the first wound, to the hip, came when Rosenbaum was no more than four feet from Rittenhouse and possibly closer. The second shot came to Rosenbaum’s hand.
Soot indicated that Rosenbaum was either in contact with the gun with his hand or very close to it when shot. The third and fourth shots, to the head and back, came when Rosenbaum was in a horizontal position almost like Superman, Dr. Douglas Kelley testified.
This helped establish that Rittenhouse’s fear was reasonable because of how close Rosenbaum got to him.
8. The Huber Photo
Defense attorney Mark Richards showed the jury a photo he says proves Huber touched Rittenhouse’s gun; the defense was trying to show that Rittenhouse feared both Rosenbaum and Huber were trying to disarm him of his weapon.