Rittenhouse Jury Views Video Cited as Reason for Mistrial
(Bloomberg) -- A drone video that prosecutors say shows Kyle Rittenhouse aiming his rifle at someone who posed no threat to him was reviewed by the jury in his murder trial on the second day of deliberations after a judge approved their request to see it again.
The drone video allegedly shows Rittenhouse aiming his rifle at Black Lives Matter demonstrators before a man rushes toward him and Rittenhouse shoots him. Rittenhouse’s lawyers asked Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder to declare a mistrial because they say prosecutors gave them a lower quality version of the video than they showed the jury at trial.
Schoroeder said he’d rule later on the defense request, although he warned prosecutors that it was a “high-risk strategy for the state” to submit the video into evidence when technology was used to enhance it.
“I was queasy about this from the beginning, and I’m only queasier about it now.”
The panel of seven women and five men -- all but one White -- is scheduled to resume deliberations Thursday.
Rittenhouse, 18, killed two men, including the one who rushed him in the video, and wounded a third last year at a chaotic Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha. He faces the possibility of life in prison without parole if convicted of the most serious charge, first degree intentional homicide. The jury can convict him of lesser charges, which carry lower prison sentences.
Rittenhouse claims he was in Kenosha to protect property during the protests and tend to the injured. He claims he shot the three men in self-defense.
The drone video could undermine the teenager’s claim that he wielded his AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon, which he has said “looked cool,” only to defend himself.
“Their client lied about this on the stand,” Assistant District Attorney James Kraus said. “He was confronted with the exhibit. He denied it.”
Prosecutors and Rittenhouse’s lawyers sparred heatedly over the evidence that was provided to the defense and over the request for a mistrial. Rittenhouse’s lawyers were “focusing too heavily on a technological glitch” that might have resulted in them receiving a lower quality video by email, Kraus said.
Rittenhouse’s lawyer Corey Chirafisi told the judge his team would have approached things differently if it had received the better footage earlier. He said all he was asking for is “a level, fair playing field.”
The judge showed some frustration over the back-and-forth.
“This isn’t ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ here,” he said at one point.
Kenneth Gray, a senior lecturer at the University of New Haven and a former FBI special agent, said in an interview that the footage is a “crucial” piece of evidence in the case.
“The last-minute introduction of the drone video and the raising of the question of provocation may completely invalidate the defense’s use of self-defense,” he said, characterizing the evidence as “grainy still photos showing what the prosecution claimed was a photo of Rittenhouse aiming his weapon at an individual nearby prior to any attack.”
The scene outside the courthouse on Wednesday remained mostly calm but tense, as protesters from both sides chanted about the case. Earlier in the day, a man supporting Rittenhouse walked around the front of the courthouse brandishing a gun. Wisconsin is an open-carry state.
Two people were arrested outside the courthouse for disorderly conduct, according to Kenosha police. Several officers were required to keep people and media from interfering, police said in a statement on Twitter.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.