In the Wisconsin trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the judge on Tuesday, October 26, ruled that lawyers cannot call the two people he killed “victims.”
The 18-year-old killed two people and wounded one other with an AR-15 style weapon during the 2020 unrest in Kenosha that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man.
Judge Bruce Schroeder said the word “victim is too loaded.” He said he would allow lawyers to refer to those shot by Rittenhouse as “rioters, looters,” or arsonists,” if the defense was able to provide evidence that the deceased participated in such actions.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger objected. He noted that the men’s actions prior to being shot had no bearing on Rittenhouse shooting them—he’d have no knowledge of what they were doing prior to their confrontation with him.
He also told the judge that his concern is that Rittenhouse’s attorneys will make the case about police, claiming that they encouraged their client to carry an assault-style weapon which provided him a reasonable explanation for shooting the three individuals.
“It’s not a trial about police tactics,” Binger protested. “It’s a trial about what the defendant did that night.”
Viral video of the shooting and aftermath shows police officers telling Rittenhouse and other armed militia they appreciated them. In one scene, an officer tossed Rittenhouse a bottle of water.
Rittenhouse’s attorney Corey Chirafisi insisted that the video demonstrated that police officers believed Rittenhouse wasn’t acting recklessly. Prosecutors said the shootings occurred after Rittenhouse interacted with the police.
“If the jury is being told if the defendant is walking down the sidewalk and doing what he claims he was hired to do, and police say [it’s a] good thing you’re here, is that something influencing the defendant and emboldening him in his behavior? That would be an argument for relevance,” the judge declared.
Jury selection begins on Monday, November 1.
Stacy M. Brown is the senior NNPA Newswire national correspondent.