Prosecutors in Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial are asking a judge to ban defense attorneys from referring to the men he shot as ‘rioters’ or ‘looters’ as the case prepares to go to trial next month.
Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with homicide and attempted homicide for fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, as well as wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, at a Black Lives Matter protest on August 25, 2020. His trial is due to begin on November 1.
On Monday, prosecutors filed a motion to prohibit the defense from referring to the three victims’ criminal histories or calling them ‘pejorative’ terms such as ‘looters’ and ‘rioters,’ according to Kenosha News.
‘Much like this court prohibits the state from referring to anyone as a ‘victim,’ these terms prejudice the status of these individuals,’ the motion stated. ‘There has never been a judicial determination that any of these individuals rioted, looted or committed arson on the night of August 25, 2020.
‘Further, the defendant deprived Mr. Rosenbaum and Mr. Huber of their ability to defend their reputations against these sorts of attacks when he killed them both.’
Rittenhouse, accused of shooting three people during a protest against police brutality in Wisconsin last year, waits for the start of his motion hearing on October 5
Victims: In the August 25, 2020, shooting Rittenhouse fatally shot Anthony Huber (right) and shot and wounded Gaig Grosskruetz (left)
Prosecutors also want to ban the discussion of any lawsuits related to the case and asked to have all parties in the case referred to ‘formally by their last names,’ likely in response to supporters of Rittenhouse calling him Kyle in an effort to emphasize his youth, the outlet reports.
The motion comes after Rittenhouse’s defense attorney Mark Richards argued last week that the jury should be privy to Rosenbaum’s criminal history while calling him a rioter.
‘These were not protesters, they were rioters,’ Richards said, adding that he believed Rosenbaum was attempting to steal Rittenhouse’s gun.
Rittenhouse is scheduled to return to court on October 25 for the continuation of a motion hearing before his trial begins on November 1.
The defense team for Rittenhouse previously tried, unsuccessfully, to have his previous weapons charge dismissed from his indictment.
Rittenhouse (pictured) carries a weapon as he walks along Sheridan Road in Kenosha on the night of August 25, 2020, during unrest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake
Rittenhouse says he acted in self-defense as the protests descended into violence, but he is set to stand trial for murder later this year. He is pictured shooting at Grosskreutz
Gaige Grosskreutz, pictured, was shot in the arm as protesters and armed civilians clashed during protests over the shooting of a black man Jacob Blake by police officer in Wisconsin
In video footage from August 25, 2020 Joseph Rosenbaum (red t-shirt with black pocket), 36, can be seen confronting armed men during the Kenosha Wisconsin protests
Rittenhouse’s attorney Corey Chirafisi argued that a firearms law only bars minors from using short-barreled rifles and not the AR-15 style assault rifle the teen used.
Rittenhouse was 17 when he killed Rosenbaum and Huber at riots sparked by the police shooting of black man Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin during August 2020.
Rittenhouse’s attorneys have argued that he fired in self-defense after Rosenbaum, Huber, and Grosskreutz attacked him.
The teen’s lawyers also want the court to allow them to call, John R. Black, a self-defense expert, as a witness to back up their assertions.
Black, a former Washington County, Oregon, sheriff’s deputy, has testified in numerous state and federal cases, offering his expertise in police use of force, decision-making, crowd control, and other procedures and practices related to law enforcement.
Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, was also shot and killed by Rittenhouse
Prosecutors charged Rittenhouse with multiple counts, including homicide and being a minor in possession of a firearm.
He traveled from Antioch, Illinois, on the night of the fatal shootings to help ‘protect’ the streets of Kenosha from violent protest triggered by Blake’s shooting.
Explaining their application to have the weapons charge dismissed, Chirafisi, one of Rittenhouse’s attorneys, argued that the statute only prohibits minors from possessing short-barreled rifles.
Rittenhouse used an AR-style semiautomatic rifle with a 16-inch barrel the night of the shootings, according to Chirafisi.
The only other prohibitions on minors possessing firearms lie in the state’s hunting statutes, which state that children under 12 can’t hunt with guns.
That doesn’t apply to Rittenhouse because he was 17 on the night of the shootings, Chirafisi said.
Binger countered that the Legislature clearly intended to bar anyone under 18 from ‘running around with a dangerous weapon’ and that the hunting statutes don’t apply because Rittenhouse wasn’t hunting on the night of the protest.
Rittenhouse (right) confers with one of his defense attorneys, Natalie Wisco, in court in Kenosha last week
Schroeder sided with Binger, but he said he might revisit the question later because the statutes aren’t clear.
Binger also asked Schroeder to order reporters not to broadcast witnesses’ images during what will be a high-profile trial, saying at least some of them are afraid for their safety.
He didn’t say which witnesses feel unsafe or whether they’ve actually been threatened.
Richards said he didn’t know which fearful witnesses the prosecution was referring to, but that one prosecution witness has boasted about being subpoenaed on his social media accounts.
Schroeder said he wasn’t sure if he has the authority to censor the media and that he’s presided over other cases that he described as more ‘tense’ than the Rittenhouse proceedings.
Prosecutors also were looking for permission to introduce a video showing Rittenhouse saying he’d like to shoot some men he thought were shoplifting from a pharmacy 15 days before the protest.
Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder refused to dismiss a weapons charge against Rittenhouse last week
Schroeder said last month that he was leaning toward excluding it.
Schroeder last month denied both sides’ request to send questionnaires to potential jurors to probe biases.
The judge wrote in a letter to the attorneys that he’s afraid people won’t fill them out and recipients would discuss the case with family members, friends and co-workers.
‘That may trigger even more conversations about the case, with consequent opinion formation,’ Schroeder said.
Kenosha was in the throes of several nights of chaotic protests in August 2020 after a white police officer shot Blake, who is black, during a domestic disturbance, leaving Blake paralyzed from the waist down.
The officer, Rusten Sheskey, was not charged. Sheskey shot Blake seven times while Blake was about to get into an SUV.
Kenosha’s police chief, Daniel Miskinis, said Sheskey was found to have been acting within policy and will not be disciplined.
Jacob Blake (pictured) was left paralyzed from the waist down following the shooting on August 23, 2020
The officer, Rusten Sheskey, was not charged. Sheskey shot Blake seven times while Blake was about to get into an SUV
The shooting happened three months after George Floyd was murdered while being restrained by police officers in Minneapolis.
Earlier this year, Blake filed a civil lawsuit accusing the officer of excessive force.
Rittenhouse, now 18, traveled to the city in response to social media posts asking for help defending city businesses.
Many conservatives flocked to support Rittenhouse, calling him a patriot for seeking to stop violent protests, making him a symbol for gun rights and raising $2million for his bail.
Others, including some liberals and activists, portrayed him as a domestic terrorist and said he made a volatile situation worse by bringing a rifle to the streets of Kenosha.