The defence rested its case on Thursday and Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder sent the jury home for the weekend before closing arguments are slated to begin on Monday.
On Friday afternoon, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announced that 500 National Guard service members are prepared to assist local law enforcement in the event that unrest follows a verdict.
Wendy Rittenhouse, the defendant’s mother, appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News programme on Thursday night, where she praised Judge Schroeder as “very fair” after he came under scrutiny for a series of rulings perceived as biased toward the defence and made off-colour joke about Asian food as the court broke for lunch.
She also attacked President Joe Biden, accusing him of painting her son as a white supremacist in a bid to win last year’s election.
Mr Rittenhouse, 18, faces multiple charges including homicide and minor in possession of a weapon for shooting three people – two fatally – during racial justice protests in Kenosha, on 25 August 2020.
At Friday’s conference with the judge, and without the jury, prosecutors asked to consider lesser charges – in addition to the original counts – as the defence anticipates acquittal in the more-serious charges, which could impose a mandatory life sentence, if Mr Rittenhouse is convicted.
Judge Schroeder is set to make a determination over whether the jury will consider other lesser changes, including Mr Rittenhouse provoked one encounter among the men he fatally shot on 25 August 2020.
Judge Schroeder also did not rule out lesser charges involving Gaige Grosskreutz, who survived Mr Rittenhouse’s gunfire, and he will also allow two lesser charges in the killing of Anthony Huber.
The proceedings were interrupted twice by Judge Schroeder’s “God Bless The USA” ringtone, which first made an appearance on Wednesday.
Follow the latest updates live:
Wendy Rittenhouse says judge ‘does not allow nonsense in his courtroom'
Wendy Rittenhouse appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program on Thursday night and defended Judge Bruce Schroeder, who has faced heightened calls for removal from the case after chaos erupted in the courtroom on Wednesday as Mr Rittenhouse took the witness stand.
Critics say the judge showed bias toward the defence by repeatedly admonishing prosecutor’s questions, accusing them of acting in “bad faith”, and considering a bid to throw out video of the moment Mr Rittenhouse shot his first victim over questions about the reliability of iPad’s “pinch to zoom” feature.
Doubts about the judge’s impartiality have loomed over the case from the start, after he forbade the use of the term “victims” to describe the three men shot by Mr Rittenhouse, while allowing politically-charged words such as “riot”, “looters” and “antifa”.
The defendant’s mother dismissed those doubts in her interview with Mr Hannity on Thursday.
“The judge is very fair,” Ms Rittenhouse said.
“People that I talk to who lived in Kenosha all their lives say Judge Schroeder is a very fair judge, and he does not allow nonsense in his courtroom.”
The Independent’s Megan Sheets reports:
Wendy Rittenhouse appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program on Thursday night after the defence rested its case
Wendy Rittenhouse says President Joe Biden ‘defamed’ her son
At another point in her Fox News interview, Wendy Rittenhouse accused President Biden of painting her son as a white supremacist in a bid to win the 2020 election.
During the presidential race, Mr Biden’s team used footage of Mr Rittenhouse parading through Kenosha on the night of the shootings in campaign videos in an effort to associate his rival Donald Trump with white supremacists.
After Mr Trump refused to condemn the far-right Proud Boys during a debate, Mr Biden’s team tweeted a photo of Mr Rittenhouse with the caption: “There no other way to put it: the President of the United States refused to disavow white supremacists on the debate stage last night.”
Ms Rittenhouse said she was “shocked” and “angry” when she saw Mr Biden’s team using her son’s image.
“President Biden don’t know my son whatsoever,” she told Mr Hannity. “He’s not a white supremacist, he’s not a racist.
“He did that for the votes and for a while I was so angry at him. And what he did for my son - he defamed him.”
Wendy Rittenhouse explains her tears in the courtroom
Speaking out Thursday night, Wendy Rittenhouse shared how difficult it’s been to watch the trial unfold from the gallery - particularly when videos from the night of the shootings are shown.
“I thought my son was going to die that night,” she told Sean Hannity. “When I look at the video with that guy pointing a gun to my son’s head I thought he was going to die. This guy just pointed a gun at his head.
“It took a long time to... just to grasp that he was alive. And knowing that he is with me, I’m grateful and I’m relieved that he’s OK.
“But he has a lot of healing to do. He does have nightmares from this.”
Judge expects trial to finish by Monday or Tuesday
Judge Schroeder told jurors at the end of Wednesday that he expects the proceedings to wrap up early next week.
“I have just discussed the matter with the lawyers, and I’m very confident that we will finish by Tuesday as I asked you about a couple of weeks ago,” the judge said. “And there is a bare chance, I don’t want to get your hopes up, but there is a chance we can finish on Monday. And that’s the best of my information. It isn’t a promise, but I think that’s very realistic.”
The defence rested its case on Thursday before Judge Schroeder dismissed the jury for the weekend, with closing arguments expected to begin on Monday.
Both sides will appear in court on Friday morning for motions and discussions on jury instructions.
Judge under fire for off-colour ‘Asian food’ joke
Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder, Wisconsin’s longest-serving active trial judge, came under fire on Thursday when he made an unsavoury joke about Asian food and supply chain issues as the court discussed a lunch break.
“I hope the Asian food isn’t coming – it’s not, isn’t one of those boats in Long Beach harbour,” the judge quipped as the defence rested its case.
His apparent reference to “Asian food” coming from boats in congested southern California ports has been perceived as anti-Asian. John Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC, told CNN that it “harms our community and puts us in the crosshairs of microaggressions as well as actual physical violence”.
It wasn’t the first time Judge Schroeder has been criticised outside the courtroom for his questionable comments throughout the trial. The Independent’s Alex Woodward reports:
Heightened scrutiny into judge’s behaviour follows high-profile case intertwining issues of white vigilantism, the Second Amendment and criminal justice
Five of the most bizarre moments from the Rittenhouse trial
Viewers of Mr Rittenhouse’s trial have come to expect the unexpected after a series of dramatic scenes inside the courtroom in Kenosha.
Some of the most memorable moments have centred around Judge Schroeder, who made clear early on that he is not afraid to raise his voice or interrupt an attorney he perceives to be taking too long to get to the point.
The judge drew attention away from the defendant on several occasions this week, including when he unleashed a vicious rebuke of the prosecution, questioned the reliability of Apple’s camera technology and flipped through a cookie catalogue during a break.
But the most striking stretch of the trial came on Wednesday morning, when Mr Rittenhouse took the stand in his own defence and broke down in tears as he recounted the moments before he fatally shot his first victim, Joseph Rosenbaum.
With the trial expected to wrap up as early as Monday, The Independent’s Megan Sheets looks at five of the most provocative moments so far:
Rittenhouse’s homicide trial is expected to wrap up early next week in Kenosha, Wisconsin
WATCH: Trial resumes with motions from defence and prosection
The defence and prosecution are both back in the courtroom to argue motions before Judge Schroeder.
The judge is giving a brief description of the instructions he will pass to the jury explaining the requirements for each of the charges.
He said he will submit the full instructions to both parties on Saturday ahead of closing arguments on Monday.
When will a verdict be handed down?
As the Rittenhouse trial winds down, all eyes are on the jury which is expected to decide his guilt on multiple charges next week in Kenosha.
Closing arguments are expected to take place on Monday, and Judge Schroeder has instructed both sides to keep things brief. The defence also has a pending motion for a mistrial with prejudice, which the judge said he would take under advisement.
Should that motion be denied, legal experts say it’s impossible to predict how long the jury will take to come to a verdict after reviewing evidence from eight days of testimony.
The Independent’s Megan Sheets looks at what’s to come:
Judge Bruce Schroeder sent jurors home for the weekend on Thursday after the defence rested its case
Judge weighs allowing jury to consider lesser charges
Friday’s hearing kicked off with a lengthy discussion on whether the jury can consider lesser charges on the original counts Mr Rittenhouse faces.
On count one, first-degree reckless homicide for the death of Joseph Rosenbaum, prosecutors sought the possibility of downgrading to second-degree. Judge Schroeder refused, only allowing the original first-degree charge.
On count two, first-degree recklessly endangering safety in regards to a man who was standing near Mr Rosenbaum when he was shot, the judge said he would consider the prosecution’s request for consideration of second degree.
On count four, first-degree recklessly endangering safety - use of a weapon, Judge Schroeder declined a second-degree charge, arguing that the jury would have no grounds to convict on the lesser but not the greater.
On the charge of first-degree intentional homicide - use of a dangerous weapon for the death of Anthony Huber, the state asked to consider lesser charges of second-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and second-degree reckless homicide. The defence accepted the first two options but objected to the third, saying it “doesn’t fit.”
On the charge of attempted first-degree intentional homicide - use of a dangerous weapon for wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, the judge said he would consider lesser charges and was inclined to agree with the prosecution.
The Associated Press explains prosecutors’ request for lesser charges:
Prosecutors in Kyle Rittenhouse's murder trial could ask the jury to consider less serious charges in a trade-off that could help get a conviction but would ensure that he wouldn't receive a life sentence
Confusion over minor weapon possession charge
Friday’s hearing descended into confusion during a discussion of the charge of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.
The defence has sought to throw out this charge, saying the prosecution has not presented enough evidence to support it.
The two teams went back and forth on the Wisconsin statute in question, with the defence arguing that Mr Rittenhouse is immune because the statute offers a hunting exception for persons over the age of 16. Mr Rittenhouse was 17 at the time of the shootings.
Judge Schroeder voiced his confusion on the topic, saying: “I know there are a lot more brighter judges in this world than me.”
He said he intends to instruct the jury on the evidence submitted and urged prosecutors to conduct a review to determine if they can prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
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