Kyle Rittenhouse took the stand in his own defense during his murder trial Wednesday in a shock move, maintaining that he was acting in self defense when he killed two men and injured another during a night of violent unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin last summer.
Rittenhouse, 18, is facing three felony charges for the shootings and told jurors during his testimony that the only reason he was in Kenosha that night was to render first aid to demonstrators, put out fires and protect businesses.
Here are five takeaways from the explosive testimony.
Rittenhouse broke down into tears when asked about killing Joseph Rosenbaum
When Rittenhouse’s attorney Mark Richards initially began questioning him, the teen remained defiant and composed as he calmly explained his actions during last year’s mayhem.
But when Richards asked him about the moments leading up to the shooting that killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, Rittenhouse lost it.
“I was cornered,” the teen said, his face scrunched as he fought to hold back tears.
“That’s when I run,” Rittenhouse said, before breaking down into loud sobs, unable to continue speaking.
Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder told Rittenhouse to just “relax” for a moment and declared a brief break while Rittenhouse’s mother Wendy broke down herself in the gallery.
As the jury was being led out of the room for the break, Rittenhouse and his mother were still visibly and audibly crying and as they left, many of the jurors looked at the teen with apparent sympathy, the Chicago Tribune reported from inside the courtroom.
Following the break, Rittenhouse composed himself and didn’t break down again.
Rittenhouse said he didn’t ‘do anything wrong’ when he fatally shot two people and injured a third
During Richards’ questioning, he delved into Rittenhouse’s actions before and after the shooting and what was happening around him.
The teen said demonstrator Joshua Ziminski, who was charged with firing a gun into the air moments before Rittenhouse opened fire, and another individual were screaming “get his ass, get his ass” following the fatal shooting of Rosenbaum.
“I thought the safest option would be to go north down Sheridan to turn myself in to the law enforcement down there,” Rittenhouse testified.
“I continue to run after hearing people say, ‘Cranium him,’ ‘Get him,’ ‘Kill him,’ people were screaming, and I was just trying to get to the police running down Sheridan Road.”
When asked why he was going to police, Rittenhouse said it was because he had nothing to hide.
“I didn’t do anything wrong, I defended myself,” the teen answered.
“I did what I had to do to stop the person who was attacking me by killing them.”
The testimony revealed Rittenhouse lied about being an EMT
Throughout the state’s cross examination of Rittenhouse, the accused murderer repeatedly maintained that the only reason he was in Kenosha during the demonstrations was to help others.
He went into detail about two first aid kits that he brought with him and how he went around asking numerous people if they needed help, including a woman with an apparent twisted ankle who allowed Rittenhouse to apply a bandage to her foot.
Rittenhouse explained that he’d been a cadet with the Antioch Fire Department in Illinois and while he’d learned some first aid skills, he was not a certified EMT, even though he’d told numerous people that night that he was.
Specifically, Rittenhouse told Richard McGinnis, a video producer with The Daily Caller, that he was an EMT during an interview and acquiesced that he was lying.
“You knew you were being interviewed by the media when you said that lie?” Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger asked.
“Yes,” Rittenhouse admitted.
Even though Rittenhouse said he was there to render aid, he didn’t help the people that he shot
As Binger continued to pepper Rittenhouse with questions, he threw the teen’s testimony about wanting to help people back in his face when he asked him if he rendered aid to those he’d shot.
“He’s lying there facedown on the ground, correct?” Binger asked about Rosenbaum, to which Rittenhouse said “Yes.”
“You proclaimed yourself that night to be a medic, an EMT. You told everyone that, right?” Binger continued, and again, Rittenhouse answered in the affirmative.
The ADA noted that the location of the shooting was across the street from a hospital, but instead of helping Rosenbaum get medical care, he said Rittenhouse’s “first thought was to run away.”
“My first thought was to help,” Rittenhouse answered, but Binger fired back that he “didn’t do anything to help him.”
“You didn’t do a single thing, did you?” Binger said.
Rittenhouse replied that he was just trying to get away from the area out of his own safety.
“The crowd started to scream, “Get him! Get him! Get him!’ and I didn’t want to stay there with the crowd building and the mob advancing on me.”
The prosecution tried to introduce evidence that was inadmissible, prompting a harsh admonishment from the judge and a request for a mistrial by the defense
During Binger’s cross-examination, the assistant district attorney attempted to bring up a past event that the judge had previously ruled was inadmissible in a pretrial order.
“You have previously indicated that you wished you had your AR-15 to protect someone’s property, correct?” Binger asked after Rittenhouse testified that deadly force shouldn’t be used to protect property.
At that point, the judge halted the proceedings and asked the jury to leave the room so he could admonish Binger for the question.
“You know very well that an attorney can’t go into these types of areas where the judge has already ruled without asking outside of the presence of the jury to do so, so don’t give me that,” Schroeder scoffed.
Binger explained to the judge that he was trying to “impeach” Rittenhouse on his own testimony by bringing up a past event where the defendant allegedly said he wanted to shoot shoplifters, and thus, believed deadly force should be used to protect property.
Shroeder shot back that just because someone did something on one occasion, doesn’t mean they’re going to do it on another occasion.
“This is propensity evidence. I said at the time that I made that ruling and I’ll repeat again now for you. I see no similarity between talking about wishing you had your AR gun, which you don’t have, so you can fire rounds at these thought to be shoplifters and the incidents in these cases,” Shroeder railed.
“I commented at the time I don’t see the similarities, and I don’t see the similarities now.”
Later, Rittenhouse’s attorney used the misstep as grounds to seek a mistrial without prejudice, meaning the teen couldn’t be tried for the crimes again. Schroeder said he’d take it under advisement but allowed proceedings to continue.
Additional reporting by Jackie Salo