Kyle Rittenhouse attorney says he’s ‘glad’ client shot ‘crazy’ Joseph Rosenbaum

Some of the last words jurors at Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial heard before starting deliberations were about the mental health of Joseph Rosenbaum

Via AP news wire
Thursday 18 November 2021 12:50

The first man Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shot on the streets of Kenosha Wisconsin was “irrational and crazy,” Rittenhouse’s attorney told jurors at his murder trial.

Joseph Rosenbaum had been on medication for bipolar disorder and depression, and he was trying to take Rittenhouse's rifle, attorney Mark Richards said, suggesting there could have been more bloodshed if Rittenhouse hadn't acted.

“I’m glad he shot him because if Joseph Rosenbaum got that gun I don’t for a minute believe he wouldn’t have used it against somebody else," Richards said during closing arguments in the 18-year-old Illinois man's trial for killing Rosenbaum and another man and wounding a third during a chaotic night of protests in August 2020.

To some legal experts and other observers, Richards' remarks were a smart courtroom strategy and an accurate depiction of the threat faced by Rittenhouse, who says he shot the men in self-defense. But mental health advocates heard something different: a dangerous assumption that people living with mental illness are homicidal and need to be killed, and terminology such as “crazy" that they say is pejorative and adds to the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Studies have shown that people with bipolar disorder and depression are more likely to hurt themselves than hurt others, said Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota. That's why NAMI's work includes training police officers to use de-escalation strategies when dealing with people who have a mental illness.

“You just don’t have someone shot down, particularly someone who is unarmed," she said.

Jason Lackowski, a former Marine who said he went armed to the Kenosha protests to protect property, testified during the trial that Rosenbaum acted “belligerently” that night and seemed to want "to entice someone to do something,” but did not appear to pose a serious threat to anyone. Lackowski said he turned his back on Rosenbaum and ignored him.

Rittenhouse didn't know Rosenbaum or his background when they crossed paths at the protest that followed the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white police officer. And the jury wasn't supposed to know much about him either.

During pretrial hearings, defense attorneys said they wanted to present evidence of Rosenbaum's past, including an Arizona conviction for having sex with a minor in 2002. They planned to argue that Rosenbaum, 36, was trying to take the then-17-year-old Rittenhouse’s weapon during their encounter because Rosenbaum wasn’t legally allowed to have a gun due to his criminal past. Prosecutors argued that the defense was trying to signal to the jury that Rosenbaum was a bad guy who deserved to die.

Judge Bruce Schroeder blocked defense lawyers from revealing the sex crime conviction at the trial. Jurors also were not supposed to hear about Rosenbaum's mental health history, which Schroeder said wasn't relevant because Rittenhouse didn't know it when he shot him.

But the information came out in court after prosecutors asked Rosenbaum’s fiancée, Kariann Swart, whether Rosenbaum — whom she said had just been released from a hospital — had taken medication earlier on the day he was shot. Schroeder later ruled that by asking that question, prosecutors opened the door for the defense to ask Swart what the medication was for. Under cross-examination, she told jurors it was for bipolar disorder and depression.

Swart also testified that Rosenbaum had returned from a Milwaukee hospital on the day of the shooting. The jury did not hear that Rosenbaum had been in a mental health ward following a suicide attempt.

Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor who is now in private practice and who isn't involved in the Rittenhouse case, believes the testimony about Rosenbaum’s mental illness was “very important to the self-defense argument” and therefore fair game.

People including the jury, might agree that mental illness on its own does not cause someone to be violent, Turner said. But that information along with Rosenbaum's actions that night — from getting in the face of men armed with rifles to at one point chasing after Rittenhouse — likely was a “nodding their head kind of moment” for jurors.

“It fortifies the defense argument that this is the truth, this is the reality," Turner said.

Kim Motley, an attorney representing Rosenbaum’s estate, said she understands Richards' efforts to “vigorously defend” his client. But she called his comments about being glad Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum — among the final words jurors heard before they started deliberating Tuesday following a roughly two-week trial — “disgusting” and offensive to people who struggle with mental illness.

“This trial isn't about the type of person Joseph Rosenbaum was,” Motley said “This trial is about his client, Kyle Rittenhouse.”

___

Find the AP’s full coverage of the Rittenhouse trial: https://apnews.com/hub/kyle-rittenhouse

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in