Kyle Rittenhouse trial: Jury could be allowed to weigh lesser charges against accused Kenosha shooter

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The Wisconsin jury that will decide whether or not to convict accused Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse may be allowed to consider lesser charges in addition to those prosecutors originally brought against him. 

Arguments over what would be included in jury instructions were contentious at times, with attorneys rehashing debates they had earlier in the trial or in pretrial hearings. At one point, as the two sides debated what a particular photo showed, Judge Bruce Schroeder lost his temper, shouting, “You’re asking me to give an instruction. I want to see the best picture!”

Rittenhouse was 17 when he fatally shot two protesters and wounded a third in August 2020 during a chaotic night of protests in Kenosha over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Jurors are expected to begin deliberating Monday in the case that has left Americans divided.

Dr. John Black testifies as Kyle Rittenhouse watches during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. 
(Mark Hertzberg /Pool Photo via AP)

Prosecutors have argued that Rittenhouse, who was armed with an AR-15 on the night of the shootings, instigated the bloodshed. Defense attorneys have argued that Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense.

Rittenhouse is charged with several counts, including homicide and attempted homicide, in the killings of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and the wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz. Wisconsin law allows the prosecution and defense to ask that jurors be told they can consider lesser charges as part of the instructions they receive before deliberations.

With many legal observers saying prosecutors struggled to poke holes in Rittenhouse’s self-defense claims, Schroeder’s decisions on what he will allow in terms of lesser charges could be significant.

The judge said he would issue his final rulings Saturday, but he also made some findings from the bench and indicated how he was inclined to rule on others.

He addressed Rittenhouse directly at one point toward the end of the day’s proceedings, which took place without the jury present. He told the defendant that by having the lesser charges included, “you’re raising the risk of conviction, although you’re avoiding the possibility that the jury will end up compromising on the more serious crime. And you’re also decreasing the risk that you’ll end up with a second trial because the jury is unable to agree.”

Rittenhouse said he understood.

Rittenhouse, now 18, faces one count of first-degree reckless homicide in the shooting death of Rosenbaum, who was the first person he shot after Rosenbaum chased him into a used car lot. Prosecutors sought to add a second-degree reckless homicide charge, which would not require prosecutors to prove that Rittenhouse had shown an utter disregard for human life. 

After the defense objected, Schroeder said he was unlikely to allow the jury to consider the lesser charge because he thought a subsequent guilty verdict on second-degree reckless homicide would be overturned on appeal.

Rittenhouse also faces two charges of first-degree reckless endangerment: one for firing at an unknown man who tried to kick him in the face and another because a reporter was in the line of fire when Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum.

Schroeder said he was inclined to allow a lesser charge of second-degree reckless endangerment when it comes to endangering the reporter, but that attorneys shouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t allow it. He also said he wouldn’t allow the lesser charge in the case of the unidentified man who tried to kick Rittenhouse.

Rittenhouse also faces one count of first-degree intentional homicide in Anthony Huber’s death, which carries a mandatory life sentence. Huber swung his skateboard at Rittenhouse after the teen killed Rosenbaum.

The defense did not object to adding lesser counts of second-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide as it relates to Huber. It did object to adding a charge of second-degree reckless homicide. The judge said he “embraced” that argument.

Kyle Rittenhouse is sworn in to testify during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse on Wednesday in Kenosha, Wis.
(Getty Images)

Rittenhouse faces one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide for shooting and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz in the arm. Grosskreutz confronted Rittenhouse after Huber was shot and killed.

Prosecutors asked for adding lesser counts of second-degree attempted intentional homicide, first-degree reckless endangerment and second-degree reckless endangerment. Rittenhouse attorney Corey Chirafisi did not object to the second-degree attempted homicide count, but he did object to adding the reckless endangerment counts, saying he doesn’t believe someone can “attempt to be reckless.”

Kyle Rittenhouse watches video of himself on the night of the shootings during cross examination while testifying at his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse on Nov. 10, 2021, in Kenosha, Wis. (Photo by Mark Hertzberg-Pool/Getty Images)

Schroeder said he would mull it over but was inclined to agree with prosecutors.

The defense rested its case on Thursday after approximately two and a half days of witness testimony. Defense attorneys have repeatedly argued that their client was acting in self-defense when he fired his semi-automatic rifle.

The prosecution’s arguments lasted roughly five days, with the state arguing that Rittenhouse instigated the bloodshed. 

After closing arguments on Monday, names will be drawn to decide which 12 jurors will deliberate and which will be dismissed as alternates. Eighteen jurors have been hearing the case. 

Fox News’ Jiovanni Lieggi and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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