KENOSHA – The jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial started deliberation Tuesday in Kenosha County. Rittenhouse, 18, stands accused of shooting and killing two men and injuring a third during a riot in downtown Kenosha last year.

The officer-involved shooting of Jacob Blake, a man who had a knife and a felony warrant out for his arrest, sparked the events. That initial case was later reduced to a misdemeanor. Blake lived but suffered serious injuries.

Defense lawyers say Kyle Rittenhouse, then 17, acted in self-defense last August when he shot and killed Anthony Huber, 26, and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and injured Gaige Grosskreutz, now 27. Prosecutors say Rittenhouse intended to cause harm, provoked Rosenbaum and because of that has a diminished right to use self-defense.

During the Rittenhouse trial, Judge Bruce Schroeder released the jury Tuesday night at about 6 p.m. They will come back Wednesday morning.

Prosecutors brought multiple charges against Rittenhouse, including first-degree intentional homicide, attempted homicide, reckless endangerment and the firearm possession count.

Closing argument: defense

Closing arguement: prosecution

Kyle Rittenhouse, left, with backwards cap, walks along Sheridan Road in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 25, 2020 with Ryan Balch, another militia member. Rittenhouse was charged in the fatal shooting of two protesters and the wounding of a third during a night of unrest in Kenosha following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Balch claims police told him they planned to push protesters toward the armed civilians to allow the militia to “deal with them.” Kenosha police have not responded to that allegation.

Self-defense, provocation key elements in the case

Each member of the jury has a copy of the jury instructions — a 36-page document — so they can study them and participate in the decision-making process.

Patrick Cafferty, a defense attorney based in Racine, noted several key elements the jury needs to consider in the case, including whether Rittenhouse provoked Rosenbaum or whether he acted in self-defense.

“So if (the jury) believe the state, then they may believe that Rittenhouse provoked this attack on him and therefore had a diminished right to use self-defense,” he said.

In the second set of shootings, the focus will be on whether Huber and Grosskreutz attempted to disarm Rittenhouse because he had just murdered somebody, that they had a right to prevent him from using the firearm to kill or injure somebody else.

“So the whole concept of provocation is that if you have provoked the attack on yourself, you forfeit the right to use lethal force unless you have exhausted all other avenues,” Cafferty said. “So you have to try to retreat. You have to try to surrender. You have to use force less than lethal force. You have to do basically everything except using lethal force before you can use lethal force.”

Tempers flare over possible verdict

The mood outside the Kenosha County Courthouse Tuesday night became tense. Protesters from both sides – those claiming that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense and those claiming Rittenhouse was provoked – shouted at one another.

One man shouted that Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization and that they were pedophiles. A group of people chanted that people should forget Rosenbaum and Huber. People marched and prayed in the street. A few confrontations got heated but stopped short of violence.

Mark McClosky, a personal injury attorney who waved guns at protesters in Missouri, stood on the steps of the Kenosha County Courthouse argued with protesters. He told people that he has “no hatred in his body’ towards Black people. McClosky and his wife initially were charged with felonies but pleaded to lesser charges in the case.

Photos by Krish Colon

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.