As the first week of the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial in Kenosha wraps up Friday, the star witness of the case has been cell phone videos played repeatedly by both the state and the defense.
These videos, taken by protesters and journalists on their cell phones, show Rittenhouse and the three men that he shot at various time throughout the chaotic night of Aug. 25, 2020.
The prosecution has used video footage to characterize Rittenhouse as a violent, trigger-happy vigilante when he killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26 and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz. The defense has used the same videos to show Rittenhouse as a concerned citizen trying to protect his community after two nights of violent protests.
Rittenhouse, 18, faces multiple felony charges of homicide and recklessly endangering the safety of others, along with one misdemeanor count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor. He was 17 at the time of the shootings. If convicted, Rittenhouse could face life in prison.
Rittenhouse's lawyers will argue that he was acting in self-defense.
Georgetown University Law Professor Paul Butler has been watching the case closely. So far the prosecutors have focused primarily on Rosenbaum, who wasn't in Kenosha to protest. He had just been released from a psychiatric hospital and several witnesses have testified he was acting erratically the night of Aug. 25.
Butler said it will be up to the jury to determine who started the fight between Rosenbaum and Rittenhouse.
"If the jury finds that Kyle RIttenhouse was the aggressor, then under the law, he can't claim self-defense," Butler said. "But if the jury thinks that Rosenbaum tried to grab Rittenhouse's gun, then they can find Rittenhouse was legally justified in shooting him."
On Friday, Amber Rasmussen, a DNA analyst with the State Crime Lab, testified there's no way of knowing if Rosenbaum ever touched Rittenhouse's gun because it was never sent for analysis.
Sign up for daily news!
Stay informed with WPR's email newsletter.
On Monday, the only survivor of the shootings, Gaige Grosskreutz is expected to testify on behalf of the prosecution. Grosskreutz, who lost a portion of his right bicep after being shot by Rittenhouse, was expecting to testify last week.
Butler said Grosskreutz will represent all of the victims when he testifies.
"The problem for the prosecution is that if Mr. Rittenhouse has a credible claim of self-defense, it is probably most credible against this witness because (Grosskreutz) had his own weapon," Butler said, adding that he expects the state to argue Grosskreutz didn't present any danger to Rittenhouse, but the defense is likely to say Grosskreutz was running toward Rittenhouse.
"I expect his testimony will be very impactful, but it's hard to say if it will bolster the prosecution or support the defense," Butler said.
Rittenhouse arrived in Kenosha on the third day of protests following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was left partially paralyzed. Blake was shot by Kenosha police on Aug. 23, 2020. The shooting sparked days of protests and looting in Kenosha's downtown and uptown neighborhoods.
Rittenhouse traveled across the border from Illinois in response to a social-media call from a Kenosha-based militia group saying it hoped to protect businesses from protesters, Kenosha Police Detective Martin Howard testified Wednesday.
The trial began last Monday, when 11 women and nine men were chosen to serve on the jury. Arguments began Tuesday. A juror was dismissed Thursday after making a joke to a law enforcement official about the police shooting of Blake. Another juror was dismissed Friday for health reasons. There are now 18 people on the jury.
Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger previously said he anticipates the prosecution to wrap up Tuesday.
The entire trial is expected to last about two weeks, according to the court.