The prosecutors in the upcoming trial of Kyle Rittenhouse cannot refer to the two people he stands accused of killing in Kenosha, Wisconsin during racial justice protests last year as “victims”, a judge has decided.
Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder decided on Monday that the term was too “loaded”, but that Mr Rittenhouse’s legal team can use words such as “rioters” and “looters” to refer to the men who were shot if they could produce evidence to back up the designations.
“If more than one of these people were engaged in arson, rioting or looting, then I’m not going to tell the defence they can’t call them that,” the judge said during a hearing on Monday.
“The word ‘victim’ is a loaded, loaded word. And I think ‘alleged victim’ is a cousin to it,” he added. Rulings like this aren’t uncommon in trials deciding cases of self-defence, The Chicago Tribune reported.
Mr Rittenhouse reportedly shot and killed two men and injured a third man in August of 2020. Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, died following the shooting, while Gaige Grosskreutz, also 26, survived the ordeal.
The city was at that time in an uproar over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man. After being shot several times in the back, Mr Blake was partially paralyzed.
Prosecutors say the then-17-year-old Mr Rittenhouse came from his home in Illinois to Kenosha, in between Milwaukee and Chicago, close to the border between Wisconsin and Illinois. Prosecutors say Mr Rittenhouse used an AR-15-like rifle to shoot some of the protesters. The 18-year-old is facing several counts of felonies, such as reckless homicide and reckless endangerment. He also faces some misdemeanour counts, including being a minor in possession of a firearm.
The teenager has pleaded not guilty to all the charges and the trial is scheduled to begin on 1 November. The lawyers for Mr Rittenhouse have argued that he was acting in self-defence and that he was in Kenosha to protect businesses from looters.
When he turned himself in to police in Illinois some hours later, he claimed that the men attacked him. Use-of-force expert John Black, a member of Mr Rittenhouse’s defence team, has argued that he was in “reactionary mode” when he discharged his firearm.
Numerous conservatives have lauded Mr Rittenhouse for pushing back against the protests. His supporters raised more than $2m to pay for his bail. The judge decided last month that the prosecutors cannot draw connections between Mr Rittenhouse and the far-right group the Proud Boys.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger requested that he be allowed to make the case that Mr Rittenhouse subscribed to the White supremacist beliefs of the Proud Boys. Mr Binger cited the January meeting between Mr Rittenhouse and members of the Proud Boys at a bar, as well as his meeting with the group’s national president last year. But the judge instead ruled that there’s nothing that proves that Mr Rittenhouse was close to the group at the time of the shooting in August 2020.
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