Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder ruled Monday that prosecutors are barred from referring to the men shot by Kyle Rittenhouse as “victims,” while the defense team was permitted to refer to them as “rioters” and “looters.”
Judge Schroeder explained to Rittenhouse’s defense team that they may not refer to those shot in such terms during opening statements, but they can do so in closing arguments if evidence backs it up, The Chicago Tribune reported, according to The Hill.
“He can demonize them if he wants, if he thinks it will win points with the jury,” the judge reportedly said.
“The word victim is a loaded, loaded word,” Schroeder added, telling prosecution they can’t use the term “victim” to refer to those shot.
According to the Tribune, such restrictions are not uncommon in self-defense cases. The ruling, however, did upset prosecution, The Hill reported:
Prosecutors were frustrated by Schroeder’s decision, arguing that he was creating a double standard by allowing Rittenhouse’s attorneys to disparage the men he allegedly killed, while not allowing them to be defended.
“The terms that I’m identifying here such as rioter, looter and arsonist are as loaded, if not more loaded, than the term victim,” assistant district attorney Thomas Binger said, the Tribune reported.
In August 2020, when Rittenhouse was 17 years old, he was arrested for fatally shooting two men and injuring a third during a protest-turned-riot in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He was charged with five felony counts and one misdemeanor, including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.
Rittenhouse pleaded not guilty in January, claiming he was acting in self-defense.
An organization that was raising funds for Rittenhouse’s legal defense, #FightBack Foundation, published a video last September outlining the teen’s actions as self-defense. The Daily Wire reported on portions of the video:
The video shows Rittenhouse tending to hurt protesters during the night of the riot, before tensions escalate and the teen finds himself pursued by a mob and pinned between cars as gun shots ring out nearby.
“Every decade or so, a legal matter arises that holds the power to negatively affect our lives for generations to come,” the narrator prefaces the video. “Regardless of what side of the political spectrum you identify with, this is about you.”
“To prevent the total destruction of their communities, good Samaritans united to guard local businesses,” the video continues, showing destruction from rioters.
“So people are getting injured,” Rittenhouse himself says before the incident, the video captures. “Our job is to protect this business. Part of my job is to help people. If there’s somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way.”
“I have a medic kit,” the teen yells to the protesters. “If you are injured, come to me!”
The video, titled, “Kyle Rittenhouse – The Truth in 11 Minutes,” highlights that not one of Rittenhouse’s attackers were given a single charge.
“A 17-year-old American citizen is being sacrificed by politicians,” the narrator says. “But it’s not Kyle Rittenhouse they’re after; their end game is to strip away the Constitutional right of all citizens to defend our communities, our personal property, our lives, and the lives of our loved ones.”
The trial is set to begin next week.