Kyle Rittenhouse’s legal team can brand the men shot by the teen in Kenosha, Wis., as “rioters” and “looters” when his murder trial starts next week — but prosecutors can’t call them “victims,” the judge has ruled.
In a pre-trial hearing Monday, Wisconsin Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder overturned a motion to bar the teen’s attorneys from using such terms while trying to prove his triple shooting in August last year was justified self-defense.
If prosecutors can try to portray Rittenhouse as “a cold-blooded killer,” then his defense should be free to “call someone a rioter,” the judge said, according to a Kenosha News court report.
Still, he cautioned the defense team against using pejorative terms during opening statements, saying they should be reserved for closing arguments — and only if they can produce evidence justifying the terms.
“He can demonize them if he wants, if he thinks it will win points with the jury,” Schroeder said of protesters Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, who were both killed, and Gaige Grosskreutz, who was injured.
The defense has already made clear that it intends to argue that Rosenbaum — the first of the three to be shot — posed a danger, claiming he threatened to kill people and was seen starting fires.
“The behavior of many people there was lawless,” defense attorney Mark Richards told the court, according to the Chicago Tribune. “Mr. Rosenbaum was at the top of that list.”
Another member of the defense team, Corey Chirafisi, stressed that “if Rosenbaum is the aggressor, it goes directly to the issue of whether the jury would believe [Rittenhouse’s] actions were reasonable.”
Despite allowing the trio to be painted in a negative light, the judge stuck by his earlier ruling barring prosecutors from calling the trio “victims.”
“The word ‘victim’ is a loaded, loaded word,” Schroeder told the court, according to the Tribune.
He has admitted being the gunman caught in now-viral videos and photos from the night, but has always insisted it was self-defense.
His trial on a slew of charges — including first-degree homicide and reckless homicide — is scheduled to start Monday.
With Post wires