Court Battles

Prosecutor says Rittenhouse provoked protesters before killing two

The lead prosecutor in the Kyle Rittenhouse case told jurors that the teen had provoked protesters before he killed two of them and wounded a third last year as the trial was set to enter jury deliberations Monday.
 
During his closing statement on Monday, Thomas Binger, a prosecutor with the Kenosha County district attorney’s office, painted Rittenhouse as a vigilante who provoked and recklessly endangered crowds of demonstrators the night he shot three people with an AR-15-style firearm.
 
“Now you’ve heard the evidence, and it’s time to search for the truth,” Binger said. “So consider, for example, whether or not it’s heroic or honorable to provoke and shoot unarmed people. Consider whether it makes someone a hero when they lie about being an EMT.”
 
Referring to Rittenhouse repeatedly as an “active shooter,” Binger walked jurors through the events of that night, playing videos of the shootings and the demonstrations that engulfed Kenosha after police shot a Black man named Jacob Blake in August 2020.
 
The two-week trial has captured national attention and has become a flashpoint in ongoing debates about the widespread protests last year and the police brutality that instigated them.
 
A jury will soon begin considering the five felony charges Rittenhouse faces, including two counts of murder. The judge in the case dismissed a single misdemeanor gun charge Monday morning after the defense challenged whether the rifle he used qualified under Wisconsin’s law against minors possessing dangerous weapons.
 
The prosecutor argued that Rittenhouse was one of the many “chaos tourists” who traveled to Kenosha amid the riots and that he was looking for trouble as he carried his weapon among crowds of protesters.
 
Binger said that Rittenhouse forfeited any legal claim to self-defense in the killings by provoking demonstrators and failing to exhaust all alternatives to deadly force.
 
“You cannot claim self-defense against a danger you create,” Binger told the jurors. “That’s critical right here. If you’re the one who’s threatening others, you lose the right to claim self-defense.”
 
Defense lawyers have argued that the teenager was justified in the shootings, saying he was being attacked by a “mob that wants to kill him.”
 
Mark Richards, one of Rittenhouse’s attorneys, told jurors during his own closing argument that Binger’s effort to raise provocation at this late stage of the trial was inconsistent with the prosecution’s theory at the beginning of the proceedings.

“Why is that a problem?” Richards said. “Because, one, he’s lying; two, he’s misrepresenting, or he wasn’t prepared when he started this trial, and his closing argument has been a change to try and fit what has come up.”

 
Richards said that his client’s actions that day should be judged in part on the fact that Rittenhouse was 17 at the time and was forced to make “life-or-death” decisions. The attorney argued that Rittenhouse traveled to Kenosha from his home in Illinois to help the community during the riots.
 
“When I saw what happened in Kenosha, it bothered me, those three days,” Richards said. “People can protest, but people can’t indiscriminately burn property for no reason, of innocent people. How does that further anyone’s cause?”

“He came down here trying to help, to see the damage, and that’s what he did,” he added.

 
After both sides wrap up their summaries on Monday afternoon, the jury will begin deliberations.
 
Updated 5:12 p.m.
Tags kenosha Kyle Rittenhouse trial Thomas Binger

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