Nov 2, 2021
Kyle Rittenhouse Trial Defense Opening Statement Transcript
The defense in Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial presented its opening statement on November 2, 2021. Rittenhouse shot and killed two men amid the unrest in Kenosha, WI last year following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Read the transcript of the defense opening argument here.
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May it please the court. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury good morning still for the next 10 minutes. This is my opportunity to tell you and show you what I believe the evidence will show. You’ve heard the state’s opening statement, and now I will give mine. We have two very different outlooks on the events of August 25th of 2020. Kyle Rittenhouse was present in Kenosha, Wisconsin on the evening of August 24th. He stayed at his friend’s residence, Dominic Black. He saw on the live streams and things like that the events of the 24th. He saw Car Source number one as I refer to it, the one that’s on the east side of Sheridan Road burn all of the automobiles destroyed. He saw the looting going on, he saw the other businesses burnt down. The next morning he went down to Downtown Kenosha to look at the damage. He stopped and he helped clean up at the old Reuther High School I think it’s called something else now, but when I was around here it was called Reuther and before that Bradford.
He saw that, he met one of the owners from Car Source and they talked, and they decided that they would offer their services, him and Dominic Black and Nick Smith to help protect the property of Car Source. Ladies and gentlemen, the evidence will show in spite of what the media and public statements and things like that have been, the evidence will show that Kyle Rittenhouse had strong ties to Kenosha. His father lived in Kenosha, his mother lived in Antioch, Illinois. Kyle worked here in Kenosha County at the RecPlex in Pleasant Prairie as a lifeguard. He went downtown to clean up the graffiti, him and Nick left there, and they decided to come back that evening and help Car Source lot two which is at 59th in Sheridan, and initially Car Source three at 60th in Sheridan. When they were doing that, they met other individuals who had come to town at the urging of websites and things like that, and then just a general I would say distaste for the destruction. Those guys from the West Bend area Ryan Balch, [Lakosky, Joanne Feedler 00:02:57] agreed that they would all help protect the Car Source lots. Initially, they went to the lot at 59th early in the evening.
You will see the events of that night unfold in video and still photographs. But ultimately what this case will come down to it isn’t a who done it, when did it happen or anything like that, it is was Kyle Rittenhouse’s actions privileged under the law of self defense? That is that the defendant believed that there was an actual or imminent unlawful interference with his person. The defendant believed that the amount of force which he used or threatened to use was necessary to prevent or to terminate the interference, and that his belief was reasonable. You as jurors will end up looking at it from the standpoint of a 17 year old under the circumstances as they existed on August 25th of 2020.
Mr. Binger makes a big thing out of Kyle Rittenhouse was the only per who shot somebody that evening. True, Mr. Rittenhouse was the only person who was chased by Joseph Rosenbaum that evening. This is Joseph Rosenbaum, and what’s important in this photograph is one, it will allow you to identify him throughout the course of trial. Notice the belt, the baggy lengthy jeans. There will be a fair amount of testimony I’m sure regarding the maroon shirt, he’s obviously currently wearing it. Mr. Rosenbaum was at a location and Mr. Rosenbaum had, along with other individuals, started a dumpster on fire. When somebody put that dumpster that was very close to a gas station out, Mr. Rosenbaum became enraged. I’m going to go back. Is this sound on?
Speaker 1: (05:33)
Speaker 2: (05:33)
Shoot me nigga, shoot me nigga.
That’s just a brief snippet of that interaction. He was upset and he’s yelling that he wants to be shot. You’ll see individuals in the full video which you’ll see in the course of trial, holding him back, trying to stop him from getting at an individual who is dressed with a baseball cap, an AR rifle and long pants. Excuse me, short pants, who looks very much like Kyle Rittenhouse. Here’s Mr. Rosenbaum during the evening, him and his friend or associate Joshua Ziminski had just come from starting a trailer on fire. He arms himself with a chain and goes up and down Sheridan Road, carrying this rather heavy chain used to tie down equipment. Next is a still photograph taken from the Ultimate gas station where he was shouting, “Shoot me nigga, shoot me nigga,” at a Black Lives rally. Who is that behind him? Joshua Ziminski. The evidence will show that Mr. Ziminski also named as Alec Blaine and Mr. Rosenbaum are together throughout the evening.
Joshua Ziminski plays a central role in this scenario on August 25th. One, creating chaos and havoc with Mr. Rosenbaum, and two more importantly when we finally get to Car Source number three, Mr. Ziminski is the individual who fires the first shot that evening, behind Kyle Rittenhouse as he’s being chased by Mr. Rosenbaum. Here’s a picture with two circles, Mr. Rosenbaum and Mr. Ziminski starting the trailer on fire on Sheridan Road along with the dumpster. You see the photograph the second one circled, the testimony will show that that is in fact Mr. Rosenbaum wearing a blue mask, not his shirt over his head and carrying a bag which I’m sure there will be much testimony about. Other individual in this, once again Mr. Ziminski. In the photograph taken at the Ultimate, this is a still from one of the videos you’ll get to see, is Mr. Ziminski armed with the weapon that he ultimately fires at the Car Source three.
The individual with the red hair is Kelly Ziminski. She has a backpack and there’s a circle on her hand with a big heavy flashlight. As you can see, there was no need that evening for a flashlight other than it being a weapon. Count two is an individual by the name of Richard McGinnis. He was a reporter covering the riots in Kenosha. He had covered the riots in Portland, Minneapolis. He will tell you when he’s called to the witness stand by either the state or myself, that he was dressed like this that night. The black t-shirt with the white back, the helmet on his head. He had interviewed Kyle Rittenhouse and talked to him. Mr. Balch and Rittenhouse were going to go out and see if anybody needed medical attention that evening, and Richie McGinnis was going to follow along. He will testify that he goes out with them and eventually they have an interaction with the individual who we refer to as yellow pants man. This is Gaige Grosskreutz, the individual who is the victim or excuse me the complaining witness in count five I apologize. In that photograph you see that he’s wearing a backpack and he has his cell phone in his hand, as he does throughout the evening filming. Photograph 10, excuse me the next photograph, is the evidence will show Gaige Grosskreutz running down Sheridan Road, and you see his hand going into the back of his waistband pulling out a firearm to arm himself. The evidence will show through testimony of an individual by the name of Nathan [Debrune 00:10:39] that, that yellow dot right up there is where Kyle Rittenhouse is as they chase him down Sheridan Road. Mr. Grosskreutz is not in any danger, Kyle Rittenhouse has already told him that he’s going to turn himself into the police, yet he arms and continues with the mob to attack. This is a picture-
To attack. This is a picture of Anthony Huber, the individual who attacks my client as he’s laying on the ground after being kicked in the head by Jumpkick Man with his skateboard. He hit him with the skateboard as he was running down Sheridan Road. And then as he’s laying prone on the ground, he comes in for another hit on his head, and then grabs Kyle Rittenhouse’s firearm to try and take it away from him.
The next photograph is a picture to look at the whole skateboard, the size of that skateboard, the trucks of that skateboard. Ladies and gentlemen, I would love to be able to hold up that skateboard in front of you as evidence today, because then you could see it. You could see the weight and the heft of what a skateboard is and what that skateboard would do as somebody takes it in their hand, and swings down on somebody’s shoulder, head, and neck, trying to separate the head from the body as Mr. Huber did.
Speaker 3: (12:11)
Your honor, I’m going to object to the argument here, your honor. This is straying beyond a characterization of the evidence, and it’s Mr. Richard’s interpretation as an argument.
You’ll see the photographs, you’ll see the videos, and ultimately, you’ll get to make the decision of what Anthony Huber was trying to do. The skateboard doesn’t exist because Ms. Giddings, his girlfriend, in spite of repeated requests by detective Howard, refused to produce it. That’s what the evidence will show. Mr. Huber at the Ultimate Gas, holding back Mr. Rosenbaum, who is ultimately the individual who lit the fuse that night. Man I refer to as Jumpkick Man, or the non-complaining witness. Kyle is laying on the ground after being knocked to the ground by an individual hitting him in the head with a rock, anthony Huber hitting him with the skateboard. And Jumpkick Man comes in, kicks him square in the face with his black boot. Closeups of that. And as he’s kicking him in the face, Kyle fires two shots at that individual. He’s not hit. He gets up and he runs away into the night, never to be seen again, never coming forward to identify himself as a victim, complaining witness or otherwise to law enforcement. We looked for him, the evidence will show. The state looked for him, the evidence will show.
Those are the big players in this case, but ultimately what you’ll end up having to decide, looking at all the circumstances of that evening are the events that occurred over really a brief 15 minute period. But more importantly, three minutes. The police spread or pushed people south to approximately 60th. That’s something we can agree. There’s no line set up to stop Kyle or anybody else going in a southerly direction down Sheridan Road. There’s no statement that if you go in that direction, you can’t come back if you have business in that direction.
Kyle, an individual by the name of Ryan Bulch, followed by Richard McGinness go down there Sheridan Road. And at 11:40, they have a conversation yelling, “Medic.” And you’ll see the videotape of this event. Kyle’s got his medical bag, his gun, and he comes upon these three individuals. And the individual in the yellow pants accuses Kyle Rittenhouse of pointing a laser sight from a gun at him. Kyle shrugs it off, does not want confrontation with these individuals, does not point his firearm at them, and he leaves.
Why does he leave? Because he doesn’t want trouble. These are the three individuals who are with Yellow Pants. One individual is carrying a noose. I don’t know what that’s for. The other individual the testimony will be from Kyle Rittenhouse and Richie McGinness, had rocks in his hands. And then the blue shirted individual was carrying a nine millimeter firearm. Richard McGinness will tell you about the marauding nature of these individuals. He was so intimidated by them after Kyle walked away that he had to give up two white claws to them to settle them down and some cigarettes so that he would be able to leave them. Kyle, from there realizes he’s been separated from Mr. Bulch. He goes over to the Ultimate Gas Station, looking for Mr. Bulch and is unable to find him. What happens next is he attempts to get back to Car Source at 59th in Sheridan Road.
The pile on the right coming into the frame.
Speaker 4: (16:43)
[inaudible 00:16:43] Do not come down here. Do not come down here.
Speaker 5: (17:09)
I work at that business. I am at that business.
They don’t let him pass. He goes back to the Ultimate Gas Station and a few minutes later, at approximately 11:45, he receives a phone call from Dominic Black. Dominic Black informs him, the evidence will show, that they’re breaking windows and starting fires down at Car Source Three. Go and stop them. He asks an individual for a fire extinguisher, and asks the individual to go down to Car Source Three with him. The individual gives him the fire extinguisher, but does not go with him. And Kyle heads down to Car Source Three.
He doesn’t know that Mr. Rosenbaum is down there. He’s been asked to go down there by Nick Smith. He heads out Sheridan from 60th, walking to Sheridan and 63rd where the Car Source is. That’s a picture of him from a video leaving the Car Source at 11:46 PM, approximately. He has his firearm and he has, as you can see in his other hand, a fire extinguisher to put out the fires that are being started down there. This is an aerial photograph that the stated referred to in its opening. And it’s actually started to roll. And you’ll see circles in here. There’s Kelly Zaminsky in the green lettering. And that’s a thermal image. Excuse me.
I don’t think I can start it. It starts very slowly. People are labeled. Richie McGinness, and they head down. You see Mr. Rosenbaum come around from hiding in the cars beginning to chase my client. You’ll see the flash of the firearm from Mr. Zaminsky. And you’ll see the flashes of his first shots. I am not responsible for cutting this video. I don’t know how it got the way it did chopped up. That’s the FBI up in the plane that took this video.
But it’s very telling because you’ll see this 100 times. I’m not going to go through it again for you in opening. But you’ll see it, that the individuals are heading down Sheridan Road. And you’ll see this Mr. McGinness, who’s now over here go and hide right in this location. You’ll see Kyle come into this area and pause where Mr. And Mrs. Zaminsky are. And you’ll see in this car is a fire is started. You’ll see how it’s bright. And they go. Kyle runs in this direction, trying to get away from Mr. Rosenbaum. Ladies and gentlemen, Kyle Rittenhouse is under no obligation whatsoever to retreat from Mr. Rosenbaum. He does. He runs away from him because he doesn’t want the confrontation. He doesn’t want trouble, which makes no sense with what the state says about him hunting or chasing him down. He’s trying to get away from the individual. You’ll hear testimony, not just from Kyle Rittenhouse, but Mr. Bulch about Joseph Rosenbaum stating to Kyle and to Ryan Bulch in each other’s presence, “If I get either of you two alone, I’m going to kill you.” Flat out threats to murder. When Mr. Rosenbaum is shot in the Car Source lot three, there’s been a gunshot behind Kyle. He turns to address Mr. Rosenbaum of this firearm. Mr. Rosenbaum is not deterred. He continues to run. And you’ll see that on numerous videos, closing the distance. Mr. Rosenbaum could have stopped at any time. Mr. Rosenbaum is wearing that maroon shirt on his face as a…
… that maroon shirt on his face as a mask, covering up his identity, because he wants to steal my client’s firearm and use it against him to carry out the threat he had made earlier. That isn’t just the word of Kyle Rittenhouse made up after the fact. You’ll hear the testimony of Richie McGinniss, who was close that evening. He was following behind him, you’ll see him on the video. He’ll testify to you, in court, he did not feel endangered, he was doing his job. He will testify that Joseph Rosenbaum let out, as he put it, “One of the scariest screams I ever heard, yelling, “Fuck you,” and dove for Kyle Rittenhouse’s gun. Kyle Rittenhouse fires. He four shots at Joseph Rosenbaum.
The state wishes to slow everything down into a microsecond. Those four shots, the evidence will show, took 0.76 of a second, 76 hundredths of a second from first shot to last shot. Those measurements will be put forth by Dr. John Black, who’s a certified video examiner. He breaks every frame down, he how much each frame takes, he counts the frames and he comes up with that time. Next photograph, 11:48 PM, that’s Car Source three. You see an individual right here with his hand in the air. The evidence will show that’s Mr. Ziminski. This is Mr. Rosenbaum in full stride, running after Kyle Rittenhouse. This is still from a video, and you’ll see a lot of videos leading up to this. You’ll see a video, I believe it’s from Corey Elijah, where he is confronted by Mr. Rosenbaum, and he doesn’t want a confrontation, and he goes… You’ll hear it on the video, the video is not showing that confrontation, but you hear Kyle’s voice, and he goes, “Friendly, friendly, friendly.” He thinks because he’s giving medical attention and helping people out, that people don’t have an animosity against him. He’s wrong, but that’s the belief in his head, and Mr. Rosenbaum chases after him.
And I believe that the state will want to say, “Why did he go down there?” He went down there because Nick Smith asked him to. Why didn’t he keep running? One, you don’t have to run, but two, I’ll show you a video from 63rd, looking back onto the Car Source lot, taken by an individual who will testify and his daughter.
Next photograph, circled again. Ziminski with the arm up, Rosenbaum in full stride, chasing, and an arrow pointing to Kyle. This is the video from 63rd and Sheridan Road.
Mrs. Ziminski: (26:01)
[crosstalk 00:26:01] Oh shit, they shooting. Oh my God, [inaudible 00:26:21].
You’ll see that whole video during the trial. The individuals were at Car Source, the rioters, destroying all of those vehicles. And as Kyle was running from Mr. Rosenbaum, he did not want to run into those rioters who were destroying all of that property that did not belong to them. You hear the first gunshot, the evidence will show Mr. Ziminski. You hear four shots in quick succession, the evidence will show that is Kyle firing at Mr. Rosenbaum as he’s trying to take Kyle’s weapon from him to use against him.
You hear three more shots in quick succession. I don’t think the government will have any dispute, I don’t think the evidence will dispute those three shots are from another person who’s in the Car Source lot, firing for some reason. He was never identified, never arrested.
This will show Kyle running back to the scene of the shooting, and it will show… I think the evidence will show why Kyle Rittenhouse didn’t stay and render aid for Mr. Rosenbaum. Not that he’s under any obligation to do that, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.
Mrs. Ziminski: (27:48)
[crosstalk 00:27:48] He fucking shot him.
Mr. Ziminski: (27:49)
Mrs. Ziminski: (27:50)
[inaudible 00:27:50] Get a medic. He fucking shot him, he fucking shot him, he fucking shot him.
Mr. Ziminski: (28:06)
Three shots. That dude shot him. That nigger just shot that dude. Crazy on that boy, he just shot a man.
The individuals who are yelling, “He just shot him, shoot him,” and you can see one of them with a gun, Mr. and Mrs. Ziminski. He begins running down Sheridan Road. He’s not taking his gun, he’s not threatening anyone as he’s running down Sheridan Road, he’s running in a southerly… Excuse me, I always get my directions confused… a northerly direction, from 63rd towards 60th. What is at 60th? The evidence will show that is where law enforcement is, and that’s where somebody would run to be protected from a mob that wants to kill him.
The evidence will show this next video, taken from Gaige Grosskreutz, he runs up to Kyle. At this point, he is unarmed. Kyle does not point a firearm at him, does not do anything to dissuade him from approaching him. You’ll hear, on the video, the exchange, and you’ll see it.
Gaige Grosskreutz: (29:17)
Hey, what are you doing? You shot somebody?
Gaige Grosskreutz: (29:22)
Mr. Ziminski: (29:23)
Gaige Grosskreutz: (29:24)
Mr. Ziminski: (29:25)
Gaige Grosskreutz: (29:25)
Hey, stop him.
Mr. Ziminski: (29:27)
You see him running with the gun at the ground away from Mr. Grosskreutz. Mr. Grosskreutz came up on Kyle, got very close. Did Kyle point a firearm at him, did Kyle shoot at him? No, all he wanted to do was get to the police. But the mob is closing in, of which Mr. Grosskreutz is a member.
The first individual runs up behind Kyle and hits him in the head with his hand, or a hand with a rock in it. This yellow circle shows Kyle being knocked a bit askew, more importantly, his hat being knocked off. He’s run all this distance, his hat stayed on his head. The government doesn’t want anyone to think that he’s being attacked or hit, this still photograph shows that his hat is being knocked off. That’s the first blow to Mr. Rittenhouse.
He continues to run, the testimony will show that these individuals are running up on him. What’s important in this photograph, the evidence will show, is on the left, the testimony will be that Mr. Huber is picking up his skateboard. Why is his skateboard on the ground? Because he has taken his skateboard and swung it at Kyle Rittenhouse’s head for the first time, hitting him in the head. And you can see, in the blue circle, Kyle Rittenhouse beginning to fall down. The two red marks are one, the individual who struck him first, and Jumpkick Man, closing in. Kyle goes to the ground, this is a still photo from a video you’ll see. What’s important here, the evidence will show, is an individual. Kyle’s on the ground, within two feet. Kyle points the firearm at him, does not fire. The individual backs up, he’s no longer a threat, Kyle does not discharge his firearm.
The next picture. The unidentified complaining witness, Jumpkick Man, kicking Kyle in the face. Behind Jumpkick Man is Huber. Now he’s picked up his skateboard, this is a photograph from a different angle, a different individual, and you see him running in Kyle’s direction. There’s the boot right before contact, those are the boots that struck Kyle Rittenhouse in the face.
Here is the photograph, Mr. Huber’s bare hand on the skateboard, holding the trucks, bringing it into contact with the back of Kyle Rittenhouse’s head. Jumpkick Man still has not even gotten completely on the ground, and where is Mr. Huber’s hand? And it’s important here, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a bare hand grabbing his gun. The state will produce evidence, I believe, that there’s no DNA on the gun. He must not have touched it. Ladies and gentlemen, there’s video photographic evidence of him touching the gun.
Photographic evidence of him touching the gun. Next, the bare hand, pulling the gun towards him. Jump kick man getting up to run away. You can see a closeup. The bare hand on the gun. Kyle Rittenhouse flat on his back in the most vulnerable position one can be in. There, the strap is pulled tight. Mr. Huber’s trying to pull the gun away from Kyle Rittenhouse as he’s laying flat on his back. Kyle’s afraid he’s going to be disarmed and shot with his own weapon. The evidence will show he fires one shot, striking Mr. Huber. In this photograph, just entering from the right, the evidence will show as Gaige Grosskreutz. One hand, a phone, one hand, a firearm. Here’s Gaige Grosskreutz with his hands up. Kyle Rittenhouse does not fire. Look at the distance between them. Huber’s skateboard has not even hit the ground yet. That’s how fast all these things occur.
Mr. Grosskreutz does not stay in that position or back up. He moves in on Kyle getting closer, pointing the gun almost directly at his head. As the state said, he’s like this, but look at where the gun is going. The gun is in the circle. It hasn’t got directly to pointing at Kyle’s head, but it’s going there. Kyle fires once, hitting him. Another individual approaches after Gaige Grosskreutz has been shot, puts his hands up. Kyle Rittenhouse does nothing. In that events, in event number two, the whole event from first shot with jump kick man coming in and getting the two shots, to the time Gaige Grosskreutz is shot in the arm is about five seconds. You’ll have exact times of those shots, how fast it occurs. And after the shooting that evening, Mr. Grosskreutz was interviewed. He told law enforcement his story of that evening. The one interesting detail he forgot to mention was that he was armed when he got shot. He told the police that he had lost his gun as he was running down Sheridan Avenue. He didn’t know that there were people out there like him, videotaping and photographing everything. He had a gun in his hand, and that’s why he shot. His statement says that the reason he went into the fray was because he had to stop Anthony Huber from beating Kyle with the skateboard.
At 11:51, Kyle has gotten up, there are individuals around who are in that area, who’ve come at him. He’s pointed his firearm, back them off and he continues in a northerly direction down Sheridan Road to 60th.
Speaker 6: (36:44)
Speaker 7: (36:44)
Get the fuck down there.
Speaker 8: (36:44)
Straight ahead. Someone injured straight ahead.
Speaker 7: (36:44)
Get down there god damn it.
You see Kyle, with his hands up, approach the police car to turn himself in. The evidence will show that the police told him to get away from the car and go home. The police say that they peppered sprayed Kyle, Kyle didn’t get hit with the pepper spray. He’s not disputing that they might have shot pepper spray at him. That’s why he backed up so quickly. He finally makes his way to car source two, back at 59th, meets up with Dominick Black, the individual who sent him down to car source three, tells him about what had happened.
Dominick Black, I believe, will testify that he saw him. He was white as a ghost, sweating like a pig. And he was explaining what happened, saying he had to do it, it was self defense. They talk about going home to Antioch. Dominick Black takes him home. They leave about 10 to 12, and at 1:20, Kyle Rittenhouse and his mother are walking into the Antioch Police Department, turning themselves in to the police, which is what he wanted to do here in Kenosha. But the way Kenosha was that night with the police department surrounded by fence and things like that, he couldn’t.
He turned himself in to law enforcement. He said from that day, what he did, he’s made no bones about that. He acted in self defense, ladies and gentlemen. The evidence will show that his actions on August 25th, of 2020, were reasonable under the circumstances as they existed that night, being attacked by Mr. Rosenbaum. The evidence will show and the law is clear, he didn’t endanger those other individuals. But the government can refer to him all they wish as an active shooter. The only person he had shot was Joseph Rosenbaum, who had made threats to kill, had made numerous statements about ripping people’s hearts out. He wasn’t afraid to go back to jail. And Nathan DeBruin will testify some to the actions of Mr. Rosenbaum that night.
And he’ll testify, and it was one of the more telling statements I thought in his statement, if there was trouble that night, Joseph Rosenbaum was there. And that’s ultimately who visited himself upon Kyle Rittenhouse. The evidence will show, he thought probably that he could get that gun from Kyle Rittenhouse. He was wrong. Kyle Rittenhouse protected himself, protected his firearm so it couldn’t be taken, used against him or other people from Mr. Rosenbaum who’d made threats to kill. And the other individuals who didn’t see that shooting, attacked him in the street like an animal. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s what the evidence will show. Thank you.