Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder said last week during pre-trial hearings for the Kyle Rittenhouse case that he will “likely” allow video the defense team believes helps bolster their client’s claims of self-defense.
The video in question apparently shows police officers on the night Rittenhouse fatally shot two rioters thanking armed citizens for helping protect Kenosha, Wisconsin. The defense team is arguing that the footage sheds light on their client’s state of mind, essentially that Rittenhouse was welcomed and thanked for his services by an overwhelmed police department.
“Judge says he will likely allow video from a witness that shows anonymous officers thanking armed civilians and giving Rittenhouse and others water moments before the deadly shootings, state said police activity wasn’t relevant, defense says it speaks to his state of mind,” WISN 12 News investigative reporter Hillary Mintz posted on Twitter.
Judge says he will likely allow video from a witness that shows anonymous officers thanking armed civilians and giving Rittenhouse and others water moments before the deadly shootings, state said police activity wasn't relevant, defense says it speaks to his state of mind
— Hillary Mintz (@HILLARY_MINTZ) October 25, 2021
Last August, Kenosha was hit hard with arson, rioting, vandalism, and looting by protesters over the police wounding of an armed man, Jacob Blake. The county suffered a reported $50 million in damages.
An armed Rittenhouse, then 17 years old, went to Kenosha on August 25, 2020, with the stated intent to protect small businesses. During an incident with rioters, the teen fatally shot two men and injured a third.
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. In January, Rittenhouse pleaded not guilty.
Judge Schroeder during pre-trial last week told prosecutors they’re barred from referring to the men shot by Rittenhouse as “victims,” while the defense team was permitted to refer to them as “rioters” and “looters” if they can provide evidence of such actions.
“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.
Such restrictions are not uncommon in self-defense cases, though the ruling 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.
Last September, an organization that was raising funds for Rittenhouse’s legal defense, #FightBack Foundation, published a video 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.”