Nov 2, 2021
Kyle Rittenhouse Trial Prosecution Opening Statement Transcript
The prosecution 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 prosecution opening argument here.
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Thank you, judge. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. The evidence in this case will show that on the night of August 25th, 2020 here in our community of Kenosha, the defendant Kyle Rittenhouse, who was 17-years-old at the time, had armed himself with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle loaded with 30 rounds in the magazine. And using that rifle, he shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, an unarmed man. The shot that killed Mr. Rosenbaum was a shot to the back. This occurred after the defendant chased down Mr. Rosenbaum and confronted him while wielding that AR-15. The evidence will show that the defendant fled the scene of the dead body of Joseph Rosenbaum without stopping to offer any aid whatsoever. And as he’s running, word spreads from the crowd on the street that there is an active shooter running through the area, and the citizens there attempt to stop him.
They approach the defendant. One person hits him in the back of the head. One person takes a swing at him with a skateboard. That individual is Anthony Huber. Eventually, the defendant loses his balance and falls to the ground. An individual who is the subject of count number two, the unknown individual, runs in at that point and attempts to kick the defendant in the face while the defendant is on the ground. This unknown individual is unarmed. The defendant, in response, points his AR-15 directly at this individual as this individual is literally flying over his body, and discharges that gun twice. Luckily, that individual was not hit, but clearly if he had been hit, the wound would’ve been severe and perhaps even fatal. Immediately after that, Anthony Huber, who is holding a skateboard, comes in and reaches for the defendant’s gun. He grabs hold of the gun and tries to pull it away from the defendant.
The defendant is wearing his AR-15 strapped to his body. There is a nylon strap around his entire body, and the gun is slung from that. So it is essentially attached to him. Mr. Huber’s efforts are unsuccessful because of that strap. And in that struggle, the gun winds up pointed directly at Huber’s chest. The defendant pulls the trigger one time and discharges a round into Mr. Huber’s chest, killing him instantly. A final individual by the name of Gaige Grosskreutz has followed this chase on foot and has approached the defendant at this time. Mr. Grosskreutz is holding his cell phone, that he’d been using to record the night’s events for a live stream on Facebook, in one hand and a Glock semi-automatic pistol in the other hand.
He runs up to the defendant, the defendant turns towards him with the AR-15, Mr. Grosskreutz raises his hand. The defendant then turns his rifle over, begins to examine it for a second. Mr. Grosskreutz takes this opportunity, and you will see in the photos and the videos, that he blades his body with his left hand, reaching towards the defendant, his right arm is pulled back, this is the one with the gun in his hand. And as he’s reaching for the defendant, the defendant turns the AR-15 and discharges the eighth and final round into Mr. Grosskreutz’s right arm, the arm with the gun. Mr. Grosskreutz runs off screaming for a medic. The defendant gets up and walks away. On that night, he killed two unarmed people, shot at a third at very close range, and wounded Mr. Grosskreutz in the arm, who was armed with a gun. It is the state’s position that this evidence demonstrates the criminal charges against the defendant, his intentional homicide of Anthony Huber and his reckless conduct towards the other defendants.
Now what I’ve just given you is the snapshot, but there’s a wider context here. As we all discussed yesterday, this occurs during the context of the events following the shooting of Jacob Blake, which occurred on Sunday night, August 23rd, 2020. And we all know that, within a short period of time after that, the community erupted in protests, looting, rioting, arson, and violence. Sunday night and Monday night were two of the roughest nights that our community has ever seen. We are well aware of the damage that the uptown area along 22nd Avenue suffered, the probation and parole office on 60th Street, the furniture business there, Car Source, one of their locations on Sheridan, and other properties around town that were damaged. Fortunately, in the entire sequence of events, this was all property damage. And one of the things we all agreed on yesterday is life is more important than property. Up until Tuesday night, despite all the things that community had experienced, no one had been killed.
But what happened as the time went on was that the people of Kenosha, who felt a sense of outrage, began to protest. But like moths to a flame, tourists from outside of our community were drawn to the chaos here in Kenosha. People from outside of Kenosha came in and contributed to that chaos. And it caused many of our citizens to fear for their safety, fear for their homes, and their families, fear for their businesses, and take steps to protect themselves. Whether it is to arm themselves, board up their windows, move, or take time away from the community, all of those reactions were entirely understandable and reasonable, and no one here is going to tell you otherwise. As long as those are what you’re left doing, there’s no issue.
But out of the hundreds of people that came to Kenosha during that week, the hundreds of people that were out on the streets that week, the evidence will show that the only person who killed anyone was the defendant Kyle Rittenhouse. The evidence will show that hundreds of people were out on the street experiencing chaos and violence, and the only person who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse. We will show you videos of some of the events that night. Of police, tear gas, rubber bullets, and yet the only person who killed anyone was the defendant.
There are fireworks going off, which is a loud noise, sounds like gunfire. There are guns being discharged, the sound of gunfire throughout our community that night. Hundreds of people are there experiencing this. And yet the only one who kills anyone is the defendant. We will show you video of hostile confrontation between literally hundreds of people on one side of the issue, and on the other side of the issue. People getting up in each other’s faces, and yet the only person who killed anyone is the defendant. Hundreds of people experienced those nights, experienced the night of August 25th, experienced that chaos, hundreds of people. And yet the only one who killed anyone is the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse. Recently, I heard someone sort of tongue-and-cheek joke that jury service is bringing in folks from our community and paying them eight dollars a day to help solve a murder. We’re not asking you to solve a mystery in this case. In most homicide cases, the elements that I need to prove might be a little challenging, but here, there’s no doubt. There will be no dispute in this record that the defendant-
There will be no dispute in this record that the defendant had that gun that night, shot eight bullets, four of them hit Joseph Rosenbaum, two of them at an unknown individual, one into Anthony Huber’s chest, and one into Gaige Grosskreut’s arm. That will not be in dispute. The central issue in this case is going to be self defense. And the judge has given you an instruction, which I want to highlight here, because there are some factors that I’d like you to keep in mind when you hear the evidence in this case. The defendant used deadly force. There is a privilege under our laws to use deadly force, but it’s a very limited privilege. That privilege, according to the law, indicates that the defendant can only use deadly force if he reasonably believed that the force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself.
In determining whether or not those beliefs were reasonable, the standard is what a person of ordinary intelligence and prudence would have believed in the defendant’s position under the circumstances that existed at the time of the offense. The reasonableness of the defendant’s beliefs must be determined from the standpoint of the defendant at time of his acts and not with the benefit of hindsight. You are essentially the people of ordinary intelligence and prudence who will apply that standard of reasonableness to the defendant’s behavior and make a determination as to whether or not his use of deadly force was reasonable. Was it reasonable for the defendant to believe that the force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself? Let’s talk about the context of that evening. And I’m going to try and go in a little bit of chronological order to set things up for you so you understand the evidence that comes in in this trial.
The first witness you’re going to hear from in this trial is a man by the name of Dominick Black. Dominick Black was, at the time of this incident, dating McKenzie Rittenhouse, who is the defendant’s sister. And through McKenzie, Dominick Black got to know the defendant and they spent a lot of time together in the months leading up to August 25th, 2020. In fact, on May 1st, 2020, Dominick Black bought the AR-15 for the defendant. That occurred up in Ladysmith, Wisconsin. Dominick Black used money that was given to him by the defendant to go Ace Hardware up in Ladysmith and buy the gun in Dominick Black’s name. Now you might ask, why was it necessary for Dominick Black to do that? Why couldn’t the defendant do that? Because the defendant was 17. And Dominick Black and the defendant knew that because the defendant is 17, he cannot purchase a gun. He cannot legally own a gun. And so this was, in effect, a straw purchase on behalf of Dominick Black, on behalf of the defendant.
After the gun is purchased in Ladysmith, Dominick Black and the defendant spend a little time up there at Dominick Black’s family’s hunting property, and they fire both that AR-15 and one that Dominick Black already had. And the two of them are practicing using their AR-15s at a shooting range that they have on that property. And Mr. Black will tell you some more about that. Then they agreed that that gun would not go home with the defendant, to his home in Antioch, Illinois. It would stay here in Kenosha at the residence of Dominick Black’s stepfather in a locked gun case. And in fact, after the two of them returned from Ladysmith in early May of 2020, the gun stayed at that residence here in Kenosha until the day of August 25th, 2020.
On the night leading up to August 25th, that Monday night, the defendant stayed over at Mr. Black’s residence here in Kenosha. And the two of them decided on that next day, Tuesday, August 25th, that they would do something about what was going on in Kenosha. So at one point earlier in the day, they come down here, they work on cleaning up some graffiti on some buildings here downtown. Then they decide they want to come back later that night and protect a local business, a business called Car Source, which is located at 59th and Sheridan. Now, as I talked to you a little bit about yesterday, Car Source actually has three locations very close in this downtown area. One of them was on the east side of Sheridan Road, at 58th and Sheridan. And either on Sunday or Monday night, I think it was on Monday night, August 24th, that entire property was pretty much destroyed. There were multiple cars in the car parking lot that were set fire and completely burned out. The building itself was damaged as well.
Right across the street from there is another Car Source location that also sold used cars, and some of those cars had been damaged on the night of Monday, August 24th. So on Tuesday, when the defendant and Mr. Black are out and about, they encounter one of the owners of Car Source, and they talked to him about protecting their 59th Street location that night, and there’s some discussion about that. In the afternoon, Mr. Black and the defendant go out Jalensky’s, out on Highway 31, Green Bay Road, and they acquire straps so that they can sling those guns around them themselves when they come back to the downtown area that night. And eventually later that evening, they return. They meet up with some other folks that are interested in protecting Car Source. Originally they start out at 63rd Street Car Source, which is the third and final Car Source location. But then they agree, “We’re going to go to the 59th Street, 59th and Sheridan, location and protect that location to make sure no one damages the cars, no one damages the property.” And I want to be clear. There’s nothing wrong with that. Protecting that property is entirely lawful. Totally understandable, and it’s something that many people here in Kenosha did. And there’s a group of people, including the defendant and Dominick Black, that take up positions at 59th Street. Some of them, like the defendant, are on the ground in the parking lot, where, as people are walking by in the street, they’re having interactions with these people. Dominick Black will testify, he took up a position on the roof. He did that because he didn’t want to be on the ground close to where other folks were, close to where potential issues might arise. He wanted to stay a little bit removed from all of that, didn’t want to get directly involved in it.
You will hear and see videos of sequence of events going on around Kenosha that night. The evening begins with large scale protests, large scale, no other way to put it, rioting that’s occurring right outside these windows, right in front of the courthouse here at Civic Center Park. There is a crowd of police that have lined up to protect this building, to protect the public safety building, which is right next door. And there are a large number of protestors that are agitating, they are screaming at the police, they are throwing projectiles. Police are shooting rubber bullets, tear gas, et cetera. It is a very volatile situation at Civic Center Park. Now, that’s at 56th and Sheridan, about three blocks North of the Car Source where the defendant was. But as the evening goes on, the police decide to move the line of protestors South on Sheridan.
And eventually, they pass the Car Source at 59th and Sheridan. The police establish a line at 60th and Sheridan, one block South. Now, as that process is going on, many of these protestors pass by the defendant and the people that he’s with at 59th Street. Words are exchanged. There is confrontation. There is a little bit of high hostility. No one is hurt. No one fires a gun. No one is injured. But clearly there’s antagonism. It is clear that this is a crowd that is not on the same side as the defendant, that does not see him as an ally, does not see in his group as someone that they had identify with. And as I said, there is a hostile exchange there for a while. In fact, at one point, members of the crowd pull one of the dumpsters from the property out into the street and attempt to start it on fire. And some of the other folks that are there with the defendant go out and put the fire out and have some very harsh interactions with those people in the street. I believe the-
People in the street. I believe the evidence will show that it is this process that demonstrated for the defendant, that this is a crowd that is not a safe crowd to be in. This is a crowd that does not view him as an ally. This is a crowd that if he ventures out into it, there could be problems. Now, once the police pass by and the protestors are pushed down south of 60th, I believe the evidence will show that the car source that the defendant is stationed at is no longer in danger. There’s no one there who’s attempting to damage the property. There’s no one there who’s going to do anything to harm anyone there.
The situation has moved on. Does the defendant stay there? Does he decide that he’s done what he’s set out to do and it’s time to go home? No. The evidence will show that the defendant and another individual in the group, by the name of Ryan Balch, who you will hear from, decide to venture out into the crowd. They crossed the police line at 60th and Sheridan, and they walk amongst this group of hostile protestors. At some point, they both wind up at a gas station on the Southeast corner of 60th and Sheridan called Ultimate Gas. And you’ll see some video of the scene there. It is a scene, again, of groups of people that are clashing with one another verbally. There’s some shoving going on. And in the midst of this is Joseph Rosenbaum. And you’ll hear some testimony about Mr. Rosenbaum and his activities that night.
Mr. Rosenbaum had been discharged from the hospital that very day and had come back to his home of Kenosha, had met up with his girlfriend, Carrie Ann Swart. He couldn’t stay with her, so he left her and came downtown and got caught up in the midst of these protests. You will see him on videos. You will see photographs of him as he’s walking around. He is carrying a plastic bag. Part of that plastic bag is clear and see through. It has a white string draw string to it. It is the type of bag, I believe the evidence will show, that you get at the hospital when you’re asked to put all of your personal possessions in a bag, your shoes, your watch, your phone, your jewelry, et cetera. That’s the type of bag it is. And I believe the evidence will show that he was carrying it around most of that evening. And at various points, the evidence will show that Mr. Rosenbaum is agitating. He is getting in people’s faces. He is using obscenities. He is essentially daring people to respond. In fact, at Ultimate Gas, I believe the evidence will show that he actually gets right up in the face of armed people who are similarly armed as the defendant, who have similar AR 15 type rifles on, and he is literally confronting them in their faces. None of those folks shooting. They push him away. He’s five foot three, by the way, 150 pounds. They push him away. No one appears to take him as a serious danger. The defendant is at the Ultimate Gas station during part of this. So is Ryan Balch. I believe Mr. Balch will testify that there was an understanding that when we cross south of 60th, we stay together. We try not to intervene in anything, but if we get separated, head back to 59th street where our original group is. Mr. Balch does. The defendant attempts to. He comes up to the police line. They won’t let him pass. He says, I work at that business and points to 59th street. And again, they won’t let him directly through the line.
Now, I believe the evidence will show that he could have easily gone a block in either direction if he really wanted to go back. But he turns away from the police line returns to the Ultimate Gas station. And a few minutes later, we see him on the video of a man by the name of Koerri Elijah who will testify very shortly here in this trial. Mr. Koerri Elijah was one of these people out on the streets who was Facebook live streaming the events of that night. And he catches the defendant passing right in front of him with a fire extinguisher. The gun still slung around his body, strapped to his body. And Koerri Elijah will testify this caught his attention. Where’s he going with this fire extinguisher? And so Koerri Elijah decides to follow with his video recording the entire way. And we will show you that video. You will see that as Koerri Elijah leaves the Ultimate Gas station at 60th and Sheridan and heads south, he passes by the defendant who by this point is walking, holding a fire extinguisher in his hand, all by himself.
Koerri Elijah, I don’t think registers that’s the person I originally saw and he keeps on passing him. And as he continues, he passes by Joseph Rosenbaum, who at this point has taken his shirt off. He’s got shorts on and he’s taking his shirt and kind of wrapped it around his head it and Mr. Rosenbaum is still carrying that plastic hospital bag and walking down Sheridan towards the 63rd street car source. The defendant is behind him at some distance. As they get down to the 6,200 into the 6,300 block of Sheridan road. That block on the west side of Sheridan has a house right at the corner of 62nd and Sheridan. And then on the south end of that block, the south half, is the car source lot. You will hear testimony from someone from the FBI who was up in a plane that night taking video, and we will show you the video. It is an infrared video, which means it picks up heat.
This is at nighttime, so regular cameras, especially from an airplane, aren’t going to be able to see everything. So the infrared helps us to see in the dark. The video picks up Mr. Rosenbaum. It is quite clear to see him because he is a white blob. Infrared picks up heat. He doesn’t have his shirt on. So the cloth of a shirt would help conceal some of that heat, but when you don’t have your shirt on that heat radiates and the infrared picks it up more clearly. He’s very easy to see in the video as a white dot. You see him running towards the 63rd car source. And behind him running in the same direction, following him, is the defendant.
As they get to the 63rd street car source, there are some cars on the north side of that lot. Mr. Rosenbaum peels off behind those cars and the defendant stops on the other side of those cars and turns towards Mr. Rosenbaum. Now, obviously in an infrared video from a plane overhead, we don’t know exactly what was going on at that very moment. We don’t know what words were said, but what’s clear is whatever that confrontation that was initiated by the defendant started, it caused Mr. Rosenbaum to come around the cars and start running after the defendant. The defendant drops the fire extinguisher right there and runs, carrying his AR 15. At some point during that foot pursuit, the defendant turns around, points the gun at Mr. Rosenbaum, who puts his hands up in the air. Now, remember he has got no shirt on. He’s got his hands up in the air, almost like, what are you going to do?
The defendant stops pointing at Mr. Rosenbaum, continues to run. And right around this time, there is a gunshot from someone else who we have identified by the name of Joshua Ziminski. This is an individual who’s walking on the sidewalk, probably 30 feet away from where the defendant and Mr. Rosenbaum are running. Mr. Ziminski for reasons only he can explain, decided to take his handgun and fire it one time in the air. As I said, this is in a different direction and many feet away from where the defendant was. Mr. Rosenbaum continues to pursue the defendant, and we will have detective Martin Howard testify that he’s timed the gap between Mr. Ziminski’s shot and the eventual gunshots is about 2.5 or 2.6 seconds. Mr. Rosenbaum closes on the defendant. The defendant turns and fires four shots at Mr. Rosenbaum. You will hear the testimony from the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner, Dr. Douglas Kelley, that Mr. Rosenbaum suffered five wounds total from four bullets. Dr. Kelley will testify that the first two wounds.
Dr. Kelly will testify that the first two wounds that were inflicted upon Mr. Rosenbaum were to his lower extremities. We’re not sure which order they were in, but one was to his right pelvis, fracturing his pelvis. And one was to his left lower thigh. Dr. Kelly will testify that these wounds caused Mr. Rosenbaum to start falling face forward, and you will see video of his body where it is found, he lands on his face, face down on the ground. As he is falling the defendant fires two more shots. One hits Mr. Rosenbaum in the back, and that is the shot that kills Mr. Rosenbaum according to Dr. Kelly.
You will hear testimony from someone by the name of Richie McGinnis. Richie McGinnis is a reporter who came to Kenosha to cover the events of that night. And at some point shortly before these shootings, he encounters the defendant at 59th Street and interviews him. He talks to the defendant and then follows the defendant down Sheridan Road, and is right behind the defendant as these shootings occur. In fact, he is in the Car Source lot, he is behind Mr. Rosenbaum when Mr. Rosenbaum is shot and Mr. McGinnis will testify that one of those rounds came close to him, which is the basis for the count that we’ve alleged that Mr McGinnis was recklessly harmed or placed in danger by the defendant.
Mr. McGinnis will testify that when he saw Joseph Rosenbaum shot and fall to the ground, he immediately ran up and attempted to treat Mr. Rosenbaum. He took off his shirt, he used it to try and stem some bleeding. He rolled Mr. Rosenbaum over onto his back and he’s attempting to administer first aid. Many other people respond at that very moment to that location and attempt to help Mr. Rosenbaum. They eventually lift him up, they carry him across the street to Froedtert South, formally known as Kenosha Memorial Hospital, KMH, which happens to be right across the street. These folks load him into a hospital SUV that’s there in the back of it and it races off towards the emergency room to try and save Mr. Rosenbaum’s life.
That’s what Mr. McGinnis does. The defendant, after shooting, Mr. Rosenbaum, gets on his phone calls Dominick Black and says, I just shot somebody and starts running away. Now, one of the things that you’ll see in here in this case is that the defendant throughout this entire held himself out as an EMT, as a medic. That he’s carrying a medical bag with him, strapped to his body. And yet in this time of Mr. Rosenbaum there on the ground injured, potentially dying, the defendant offers no aid, but instead runs. He runs up Sheridan Road. He encounters another member of their group from 59th Street, who you will hear testify by the name of Jason Lakowski. Jason Lakowski is similarly armed, he is a former Marine. He had been with the defendant at 59th Street and had come down in response to the gunshots. Mr. Lakowski will testify that he met Mr. Rittenhouse as the defendant was fleeing the scene. And Mr. Rittenhouse said to him, I didn’t shoot anybody but I need help. And Mr. Lakowski says head up towards the police. So the defendant starts running north on Sheridan.
The crowd starts yelling that guy, the defendant, just shot somebody because that’s all the knowledge they have at that point. And it’s true. So they begin to chase after him. They clearly believe he’s an active shooter and they try and stop it. And I’ve already described to you the events that follow Mr. Huber, the unknown individual and Mr. Grosskreutz.
So when we talk in this trial about the nights of August 25th, we need to keep in mind the context of that night. We need to keep deep into mind the fact that there were hundreds of people on the street that night experiencing the same chaos, the same loud noises, the same gunfire, the same arson, the same tear gas, the same hostile confrontations with people who believe the opposite of them. And yet out of these hundreds of people only one person killed anyone that night, only one person shot anyone that night. When we consider the reasonableness of the defendant’s actions I ask you to keep that in mind.
Now, in this trial you are going to hear from a number of witnesses from this state. I’ve already told you about a few of them. We are going to begin the testimony with Dominick Black, and he will tell you a little bit about the acquisition of those guns. You will hear from Koerri Elijah, who was live streaming, the events that night. You will hear from Detective Martin Howard, who worked diligently to gather evidence, including many different videos, many different photos of the scene that night. We are going to use that television to show you these things so that you can see them yourself. I know many of you alluded to the fact yesterday that you’ve watched or read things about this, you will get the full story here in the courtroom. And you will see some things that have not been made public yet. We intend to do that by moving the TV as central as we can so that you can see as up close and as well as possible. And we will show you as much as we can about the events of that night. You will hear from the FBI individual who was in the plane taking that infrared video that shows the defendant chasing Mr. Rosenbaum and initiating that confrontation. You will hear from other individuals who took video that night. You will hear more about Joseph Rosenbaum from his girlfriend, Carrie [Answart 00:33:16]. She will tell you about his hospital stay. She will tell you about that bag. She will tell you about what was in that bag. You will hear about Anthony Huber. You will hear that he was a skateboarder that he lived for skateboarding, that he was at the skate park at Kenora Park all the time. That he actually knew Jacob Blake, personally, that he came out that night because he wanted to show support for his friend, Jacob Blake. You will hear what sort of person Anthony Huber was.
You will hear from other witnesses who have been affected by that night. You will hear from law enforcement witnesses who did a lot of investigative work to assemble all of the evidence against the defendant in this case. And you will hear from Dr. Douglas Kelly, who will testify regarding the cause of death of Anthony Huber, the gunshot wound to the chest. And you will hear that the shot that killed Joseph Rosenbaum was a shot to the back. And based on all of that evidence, I think you will agree with me that the defendant is guilty of all of these charges. Thank you.