A jury on Friday found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all charges in the shootings of three men in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The jury who acquitted the teen was made up of seven women and five men. They had been deliberating since Tuesday morning and heard from more than 30 witnesses during two weeks of testimony.
The case focused on whether Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed two men and wounded a third during a night of protests and civil unrest last year.
Rittenhouse had faced five charges, including first-degree intentional homicide, which carries a sentence of life in prison.
On August 25, 2020, Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, went to Kenosha during protests that erupted after police shot and wounded. He testified that he intended to help protect local businesses and provide first aid. Armed with an AR-15 style rifle that night, Rittenhouse ended up in the midst of the crowd and shot three men, killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz.
Rittenhouse and his attorneys argued that the teen had only fired in self-defense, while the prosecution painted him as the aggressor. In this case, the burden of proof fell on the prosecutors to prove the shooting was not justified.
The trial heated up when Rittenhousein his own defense last week. At one point, Rittenhouse broke into tears when his attorneys questioned him about why he fatally shot Rosenbaum. He said he believed Rosenbaum would have taken his gun and shot him and others if he could. “I didn’t do anything wrong, I was defending myself,” Rittenhouse said.
At closing arguments on Monday, prosecutors disputed the defense’s self-defense claim, telling the jury that Rittenhouse was an aggressor, a liar, and an “active shooter” who did not face imminent threats of great bodily harm or death that night. Instead, the state argued that Rittenhouse was the one who provoked the violence and posed a threat to others.
“If you are the one that is threatening others, you lose the right to claim self-defense,” lead prosecutor Thomas Binger told the jury.
The defense, however, maintained in their summation that the teenager’s actions were protected under the law, and described the threat they said he faced from rioters.
“There was no threatening behavior that started this. Mr. Rosenbaum was hell-bent on causing trouble that night,” defense attorney Mark Richards said, once again placing the onus for the violence on others. “But Kyle Rittenhouse’s behavior was protected under the law of the state of Wisconsin.”