KENOSHA, Wis. – The Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial took an emotional and heated turn Wednesday, when Rittenhouse cried on the stand, the judge berated prosecuting attorney Thomas Binger and the defense asked for a mistrial.
Rittenhouse testified Wednesday that a man he is accused of murdering threatened to kill him on a night of violent protests in Kenosha last year after the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Rittenhouse, 18, broke down as he described the events of Aug. 25, 2020, that led to him fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum, 36. Rittenhouse is also accused of murdering Anthony Huber, 26, and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, 27.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself,” Rittenhouse testified Wednesday.
Rittenhouse was calm to start his testimony but began to cry before the judge called for a morning break. He returned to finish questions from his defense attorneys.
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Before the court broke for lunch, Judge Bruce Schroeder reprimanded prosecutor Binger over his lines of questioning. Rittenhouse’s defense team asked for a mistrial — meaning Rittenhouse could not be retried — but Schroeder did not immediately rule on the motion.
Rittenhouse and his attorneys said his acts were self-defense as he feared for his life that evening. He faces counts of intentional homicide, reckless and attempted homicide and could get life in prison if convicted.
Rittenhouse said Rosenbaum screamed, “If I catch any of you (expletives) alone, I’m going to (expletive) kill you!” and said, “I’m going to cut your (expletive) hearts out!”
“I was in shock,” Rittenhouse said.
Binger’s cross-examination of Rittenhouse drew a couple of serious admonishments from the judge.
The first came as Binger pointed out that after 14 months of news coverage, investigations, social media commentary and seven days of trial, Rittenhouse was now telling “your side of the story.”
Defense attorney Mark Richards objected that Binger was commenting the defendant’s right to remain silent.
Binger said he was trying to show that Rittenhouse had plenty of time and opportunity to tailor his testimony to the evidence already presented.
After the jury was sent out, Judge Bruce Schroeder told Binger he was close to or over the line.
“It’s a grave constitutional violation to talk about” Rittenhouse’s right to remain silent, Schroeder told Binger. “This is not permitted.”
Another conflict arose after Binger questioned Rittenhouse about an incident, recorded on video, about 10 days before the fatal shootings.
Rittenhouse and his friend were in a car watching people leave a CVS store across the street. Rittenhouse apparently believed the people leaving the store had robbed it or were shoplifting.
Rittenhouse said, “I wish I had my AR, I’d fire some rounds at them.”
Months ago, Binger sought to introduce the video as evidence of “other acts” that he said showed Rittenhouse’s state of mind, his willingness or desire to use deadly force to protect property, without full information.
Schroeder said he was strongly leaning toward not allowing it.
Richards objected immediately when Binger mentioned the CVS on Wednesday, and the jury was sent out.
Richards asked that Binger be strongly admonished.
Binger apologized for not seeking permission from the judge before bringing up the CVS incident but said Schroeder’s earlier ruling left the door open to raising it at trial.
“Don’t get brazen with me!” Schroeder yelled as he told Binger not to continue the line of questioning. “I don’t want another issue,” Schroeder added. “Is that clear?”
Defense attorneys argued Binger knew introducing the evidence would be detrimental to Rittenhouse and suggested he may have intentionally sought a mistrial so the case could be tried again.
Schroeder said he would give the state time to respond and again admonished Binger. Binger said he brought the incident up “in good faith.”
“I don’t believe you,” Schroeder replied.
In an emotional exchange later in the afternoon, Binger spent more than an hour pressing Rittenhouse on why he had his gun with him and the amount of risk he perceived in the crowd.
The questions were often repetitive. Binger focused on Rittenhouse’s reasons for taking his AR-15 as he moved throughout the crowd before the shootings, since Rittenhouse had been asking if people needed medical care and testified that he was intending to extinguish fires. The prosecutor sought to drive home the state’s contention that Rittenhouse created the dangerous situation that led to bloodshed that night.
During cross-examination, Rittenhouse said that he “didn’t want to have to shoot” Rosenbaum, the first man to fall that night, but that Rosenbaum chased him and had threatened to kill him.
“If I would have let Mr. Rosenbaum take my firearm from me, he would have used it and killed me with it,” Rittenhouse said, “and probably killed more people.”
Rittenhouse acknowledged that the strap holding his gun was in place and that he had both hands on the weapon.
After Rittenhouse said Rosenbaum tried to grab his gun, Binger asked, “So whoever has that gun is a threat?”
Rittenhouse did not answer the question. Later he said, “I didn’t want to have to kill anybody that night.”
Contributing: The Associated Press