Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with shooting dead two people in Kenosha last year, kept yawning throughout the court proceedings on Tuesday as the trial for the homicide cases against him began.
If convicted, he faces life in prison.
He struggled to stay awake and kept yawning as lawyers from both sides argued their cases on Tuesday, according to several photos taken on Tuesday. He let out a yawn when lawyers were giving their opening statements in a Kenosha court. He again yawned when jurors entered the courtroom. This repeated throughout the hearing.
Mr Rittenhouse, 18, is accused of fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, as well as wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, on 25 August 2020 in Wisconsin in the wake of massive unrest over the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, who was left paralysed.
Mr Rittenhouse is facing six criminal charges including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, reckless endangering and illegal possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.
He has pleaded not guilty to the homicide and attempted homicide charges against him.
His attorney has said that the then-17-year-old acted in self defence and that he was a “scared kid who protected himself from a mob,” while the prosecution has argued that he was a vigilante who travelled to Kenosha seeking conflict.
Defence attorney Mark Richards argued that the two men that the teen shot had reached for his rifle, inducing fear in him that they were going to shoot him. Mr Richards argued that a third man had a handgun on him and was part of a mob that “attacked him in the street like an animal”.
Thomas Binger, the Kenosha county assistant district attorney, however, was not convinced. He said that Mr Rittenhouse was the only person to shoot people even though thousands had come out on the streets to protest police brutality.
“Out of these hundreds of people, only one person killed anyone that night. Only one person shot anyone that night,” he said.
After the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, a former neighbourhood watch volunteer, in the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, Mr Rittenhouse’s case is reportedly poised to be the biggest US court test of a civilian’s right to self-defence.
Mr Zimmerman shot and killed Martin, 17, in 2012 while the teenager was on his way to a convenience store to buy snacks. The incident sparked the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement that put a spotlight on racial profiling and gun violence.
In the trial following the killing, Mr Zimmerman was acquitted of murder by a jury, who accepted his argument that he had shot Martin in self-defence.
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