Mr. Rittenhouse, now 18, faces six criminal counts, including first-degree intentional homicide, in the shooting deaths of two men and the wounding of another in the aftermath of protests over a police shooting in Kenosha during the summer of 2020.
During opening statements, Thomas Binger, the lead prosecutor in the case against Mr. Rittenhouse, described how Mr. Rittenhouse, an Illinois resident, came to Kenosha with a military-style semiautomatic rifle as the city was experiencing tumultuous demonstrations that turned violent.
Hundreds of people in Kenosha, Mr. Binger told jurors, “experienced the night of Aug. 25, experienced the chaos.”
“And yet,” Mr. Binger said, “the only one who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse.”
Mr. Rittenhouse’s defense team, for its part, said that Mr. Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense when the shootings took place.
“Ultimately, what this case will come down to, it isn’t a ‘whodunit,’ or when did it happen, or anything like that,” Mark Richards, the defense attorney, said in an opening statement. He said that the real question was whether Mr. Rittenhouse’s actions were “privileged under the law of self-defense.”
With opening statements completed on Tuesday afternoon, the prosecution began calling its first witnesses, including Dominick Black, a friend of Mr. Rittenhouse’s, and Koerri Washington, a Kenosha resident who had livestreamed some of the events on the night of the shootings. The trial is expected to resume on Wednesday morning with more testimony from Mr. Washington.
The jury, a panel of 20 people composed of 11 women and nine men, was winnowed down on Monday from a pool of about 150 prospective jurors who were summoned to the courthouse for questioning. Though 20 jurors will hear the case, that number will be cut to 12 to reach a verdict.
Determined to select a jury rapidly, Judge Bruce Schroeder of Kenosha County Circuit Court questioned potential jurors closely about their biases and any connections they might have with the expected witnesses in the trial.
When potential jurors said they had read and talked too much about the trial to be impartial jurists, Judge Schroeder asked whether they could overcome their notions about the case and focus on the evidence. One man began explaining that his support for the Second Amendment was so fervent that he did not believe he could serve as an impartial juror, but he was stopped by the judge.
“I want this case to reflect the greatness of Kenosha and the fairness of Kenosha, and I don’t want it to get sidetracked into other issues,” Judge Schroeder said. “I don’t care about your opinions on the Second Amendment.”
It was impossible to find a juror in Kenosha, a former factory town on the shore of Lake Michigan, who was unfamiliar with the contours of what had happened. When Judge Schroeder asked if there was anyone in the pool of prospective jurors who had not heard of the Rittenhouse case, not a single person raised a hand.
Demonstrations erupted in Kenosha in August 2020 after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black resident, seven times in the back during an arrest. For several days, protesters against police violence thronged Kenosha by the thousands, and rioters burned buildings and looted businesses, overwhelming police officers and National Guardsmen.
The third night of protests turned deadly after Mr. Rittenhouse, who was then 17, came to Kenosha with his rifle and joined a group of people who said they were there to help keep order on the streets. Within hours, Mr. Rittenhouse had shot and killed two men and wounded a third during a confrontation.
During jury selection, several prospective jurors said they had painful memories of the nights of protest and violence in their region, expressing fear and anxiety over the precautions they had taken as dozens of businesses were damaged and burned. And they worried that the verdict the jury eventually reached would be met with anger.
“I really want to serve on a jury — I really don’t want to serve on this jury,” one woman said. “Either way this goes, you’re going to have half the country upset with you.”
After a single day of jury selection, the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse got underway on Tuesday with the prosecution and defense offering starkly differing interpretations of the events that led to Mr. Rittenhouse shooting three men — two of them fatally — in the aftermath of demonstrations in Kenosha, Wis., in August 2020. At the center of the case is whether Mr. Rittenhouse acted in self-defense.
The day began with opening statements from the prosecution and defense, and ended with testimony from Koerri Washington, a Kenosha resident who live-streamed the protests in 2020. In between came testimony from Dominick Black, a friend of Mr. Rittenhouse who purchased the gun used in the shooting, and from an agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, whose testimony was withheld from the public for security reasons.
Here is what happened:
Prosecution’s opening statement
The lead prosecutor — Thomas Binger, a Kenosha County assistant district attorney — portrayed Mr. Rittenhouse as an outsider who traveled to Kenosha from Antioch, Ill., and added to the civil unrest in the city. Mr. Binger said that hundreds of people experienced the “chaos” of that August night — the loud noises, the gunfire, the tear gas and hostile standoffs in the streets between people with opposing views — and yet “the only one who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse.”
Mr. Binger focused on the shooting death of Joseph Rosenbaum, the first person who was shot, saying the fatal shot hit him in the back after he fell forward, already struck by shots to his pelvis and thigh. Mr. Rittenhouse, who was carrying a medic’s bag and offered assistance to protesters that evening, did not offer any aid to Mr. Rosenbaum, and instead fled up the street after the shooting, Mr. Binger said.
Defense’s opening statement
The defense, led by Mark Richards, painted Mr. Rittenhouse as someone with strong ties to Kenosha, saying his father lived in the city and that Mr. Rittenhouse once worked as a lifeguard in the area. Mr. Richards said Mr. Rittenhouse traveled to Kenosha with innocent motives and joined others in guarding businesses.
Using photos and video clips, Mr. Richards said Mr. Rittenhouse was pursued on the fateful night by Mr. Rosenbaum and other protesters, who Mr. Richards said “attacked him in the street like an animal.” Ultimately, he said, the case was not about whether Mr. Rittenhouse had done the shooting but about whether his actions were privileged under the law of self-defense.
The first witness called by the prosecution was Mr. Black, a friend of Mr. Rittenhouse who had dated Mr. Rittenhouse’s sister. Mr. Black faces charges for purchasing the gun for Mr. Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time and too young to buy or carry it legally. Mr. Black acknowledged that he was cooperating with prosecutors in the hope of avoiding prison time.
An F.B.I. agent, Brandon Cramin, testified about aerial surveillance of the events in Kenosha on the night of the shooting. For security reasons, the testimony was not made public.
The day concluded with testimony from Koerri Washington, a Kenosha resident who witnessed and recorded video of some of the protests in the city surrounding the time of the shooting.
Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial began Tuesday morning with a prosecutor portraying the teenager as a tourist who inserted himself into fiery unrest in Kenosha last year and initiated the confrontation that led him to shoot three men, killing two of them.
“Like moths to a flame, tourists from outside our community were drawn to the chaos,” said Thomas Binger, an assistant district attorney, in his opening statement.
Mr. Binger pointed to Mr. Rittenhouse as he said, “The evidence will show that the only person who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse.”
Mr. Rittenhouse, who was 17 and living in Antioch, Ill., at the time of the shootings, faces charges including first-degree intentional homicide.
Mr. Rittenhouse’s lawyers have said they will make a self-defense case for their client, and the case will turn on the question of whether Mr. Rittenhouse reasonably believed he had to fire a weapon to avoid being badly hurt or killed. Again and again, Mr. Binger returned to the fact that the only killings that occurred during several days of unrest in Kenosha were committed by Mr. Rittenhouse.
“When we consider the reasonableness of the defendant’s actions, I ask you to keep that in mind,” he said.
Mr. Binger largely focused on the first shooting that took place, of Joseph Rosenbaum. Mr. Binger said the evidence would show that the fatal shot hit Mr. Rosenbaum in the back after he fell forward following earlier shots to his pelvis and leg.
The prosecutor said infrared video taken from an airplane by the F.B.I. that evening will show that Mr. Rittenhouse chased Mr. Rosenbaum before shooting him. He noted also that Mr. Rittenhouse was carrying a medical kit, but fled after shooting Mr. Rosenbaum as others tried to offer emergency assistance.
Mr. Rittenhouse, dressed in a dark suit with a maroon shirt and tie in court on Tuesday, looked on quietly as the trial got underway, occasionally yawning.
Kyle Rittenhouse, an Illinois resident, arrived in Kenosha, Wis., in August 2020 as a teenager with innocent motives, his lawyer told jurors in an opening statement.
Mr. Rittenhouse had ties to the community, family and friends who lived in Kenosha and a job as a lifeguard at the RecPlex in Pleasant Prairie, just outside town. When he went downtown on the third day of protests after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, Mr. Rittenhouse was there to clean graffiti and help protect the city from more destruction, his lawyer said.
And when Mr. Rittenhouse walked along Sheridan Road in Kenosha with his rifle in the late evening hours of Aug. 25, 2020, he was pursued by Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man he shot, as well as other attackers who were determined to injure him, take his firearm and possibly kill him, said the lawyer, Mark Richards.
“Kyle Rittenhouse protected himself,” Mr. Richards said. “Protected his firearm, so it couldn’t be taken and used against him or other people who Mr. Rosenbaum had made threats to kill. The other individuals who didn’t see that shooting attacked him in the street like an animal.”
The case before the jury is about self-defense, Mr. Richards said, describing a scene of lawlessness in Kenosha that night, and a series of shootings that happened so quickly that Mr. Rittenhouse had to make lightning-fast decisions on when to pull the trigger.
Mr. Richards acknowledged the prosecutor’s argument that Mr. Rittenhouse’s actions appear less reasonable if jurors consider that he was the only person who killed anyone during the unrest that spanned several days in the summer of 2020.
“True,” he said. But he added, “Mr. Rittenhouse was the only person who was chased by Joseph Rosenbaum that evening.”
Punctuating his opening statement with photos and videos from the night of the shootings — over the objections of the prosecution — Mr. Richards turned to the people who were shot by Mr. Rittenhouse, characterizing them as hostile and belligerent.
The mob had a “marauding nature,” he said, one that was so aggressive that he said Richard McGinniss, a video journalist for the Daily Caller, had to pacify some people with alcohol and cigarettes.
After Mr. Rittenhouse shot Mr. Rosenbaum and fled down Sheridan Road away from the scene, he was chased by dozens of people, including Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz. But while the prosecutors described Mr. Huber and Mr. Grosskreutz as citizens who were trying to stop an active shooter, the defense characterized them as aggressors.
Mr. Huber bludgeoned Mr. Rittenhouse with a skateboard, Mr. Richards said, and a man who was captured on video — but never identified — jump-kicked Mr. Rittenhouse in the face.
“Kyle Rittenhouse, flat on his back, in the most vulnerable position one can be in,” Mr. Richards said.
The prosecution in Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial called as its first witness on Tuesday the friend who bought the military-style semiautomatic rifle that Mr. Rittenhouse used to shoot three people, two of them fatally, during the unrest in Kenosha last year.
The friend, Dominick Black, now 20, acknowledged that he was cooperating with prosecutors in hopes of avoiding prison. Mr. Black faces two felony charges for giving the gun to Mr. Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time and too young to buy it legally himself.
Mr. Black testified that he dated Mr. Rittenhouse’s sister and that he and the defendant once considered each other brothers.
Mr. Black told the court that he bought the gun and stored it at his stepfather’s house for Mr. Rittenhouse. He recalled that on the day of the shooting in August 2020, he and Mr. Rittenhouse had gone to downtown Kenosha together, with Mr. Black carrying a nearly identical gun of his own. He said they had cleaned graffiti there, before eventually joining other men guarding several used-car lots. People had set fire to cars at one of the lots earlier in the unrest.
Thomas Binger, an assistant district attorney and the lead prosecutor, emphasized the differences between Mr. Black’s actions that night and Mr. Rittenhouse’s actions. Mr. Black testified that he stayed on the roof of a building at one of the car lots, because he thought he would be safer there than mingling with agitated crowds that included people who were lighting fires and throwing rocks.
Mr. Rittenhouse, by contrast, was out on the street when he shot the men. Mr. Black did not witness any of the shootings.
“Did you ever consider using your gun to shoot anyone?” Mr. Binger asked.
“No,” Mr. Black answered.
Mr. Rittenhouse’s lead defense lawyer, Mark Richards, used his cross-examination to point out Mr. Black’s admitted interest in testifying. Mr. Richards also drew out testimony from Mr. Black that other people who were with Mr. Rittenhouse and Mr. Black that night had suggested that Mr. Rittenhouse stay out on the street, because he was acting as a medic. Mr. Black also testified that someone from their group told Mr. Rittenhouse to go and protect the lot where Mr. Rittenhouse shot Joseph Rosenbaum, 36.
Mr. Richards asked Mr. Black if he tried to stop his friend from going downtown with a gun.
“I didn’t say anything,” Mr. Black said.
For their second witness, prosecutors called an F.B.I. agent, Brandon Cramin, to testify about aerial surveillance of the protest on the night of the shooting.
After Agent Cramin took the stand, prosecutors played a grainy black-and-white video taken from an airplane flying 8,500 feet overheard, according to a pool report.
Here are the six charges Kyle Rittenhouse faces in the trial, numbered the way they are in the criminal complaint, which does not list them in order of severity (the most severe is Count 3).
Five are felony counts; one is a misdemeanor. For each of the felonies, the complaint lists an aggravating factor that could add to the basic sentence if he is convicted.
First-degree reckless homicide
Under Wisconsin law, this crime is defined as recklessly causing the death of another human being under circumstances that show utter disregard for human life. It is not necessary for prosecutors to prove intent to kill. (Charges that are generally known as murder counts in other states are called homicides under Wisconsin law.)
Mr. Rittenhouse is accused of this crime in connection with the fatal shooting of Joseph D. Rosenbaum. It is a Class B felony carrying a basic sentence of up to 60 years in prison.
Counts 2 and 5
First-degree recklessly endangering safety
The law defines this crime as recklessly endangering another person’s safety under circumstances that show utter disregard for human life.
Mr. Rittenhouse is charged with recklessly endangering two people who, according to the criminal complaint, had shots fired toward them but were not hit: Richard McGinnis and an unknown male seen in video of the episode.
The crime is a class F felony that carries a basic sentence of up to 12 and a half years in prison, a fine of up to $25,000, or both, for each of the two counts.
First-degree intentional homicide
The crime, analogous to first-degree murder in other states, is defined as causing the death of another human being with intent to kill that person or someone else, without the presence of certain mitigating circumstances specified in the law.
Mr. Rittenhouse faces this charge in connection with the fatal shooting of Anthony M. Huber. It is a Class A felony that carries a basic sentence of life in prison.
Attempted first-degree intentional homicide
Attempting to commit first-degree intentional homicide is a Class B felony under Wisconsin law.
Mr. Rittenhouse faces this charge in connection with the shooting of Gaige P. Grosskreutz, who was struck and wounded. It carries a basic sentence of up to 60 years in prison.
Possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18
Though Wisconsin is an “open-carry” state where it is legal for adults to carry firearms openly, state law prohibits minors from doing so. Mr. Rittenhouse was 17 at the time of the shooting.
This crime is a Class A misdemeanor that carries a basic sentence of up to nine months in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Use of a dangerous weapon
A provision of Wisconsin law extends the maximum sentence for crimes committed while possessing, using or threatening to use a dangerous weapon. The criminal complaint invokes this provision for all five felony counts; in each case, it could add up to five years to the prison sentence for that count, if Mr. Rittenhouse is convicted.
Here is a rundown of the key figures in the courtroom for the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wis. Mr. Rittenhouse faces six charges — five felony counts and one misdemeanor — in connection with the shooting deaths of two men and the wounding of a third during protests and unrest in Kenosha in August 2020. The most serious charge he faces, intentional homicide, carries a life sentence.
Kyle Rittenhouse was 17 in August 2020, and was living with his mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, in an apartment in Antioch, Ill., a half-hour drive from Kenosha, where his father lives.
His social media posts indicated support for Blue Lives Matter and an ambition to work in law enforcement. He joined a cadet program for teenagers who want to be police officers.
On the evening of the shootings, Mr. Rittenhouse was armed with a military-style semiautomatic rifle, and joined a group of armed men who said they were there to protect businesses.
Bruce Schroeder, 75, is the longest-serving circuit court judge in Wisconsin, and is known for running a strict courtroom.
He graduated from Marquette Law School in 1970 and worked as a prosecutor before becoming a circuit judge in 1983.
Because self-defense is an issue at the trial, Judge Schroeder has ordered that the term “victim” cannot be used to refer to the people who were shot. They can be called “rioters” or “looters” only if it is established in court that they were rioting or looting, he has said.
The lead prosecutor is Thomas Binger, a Kenosha County assistant district attorney.
Mr. Binger has been a prosecutor in the county for seven years. Before that, he was a lawyer in private practice, and earlier in his career was an assistant district attorney in Milwaukee County, according to an online resume. He ran unsuccessfully for district attorney in neighboring Racine County in 2016.
Mr. Rittenhouse’s lead lawyer is Mark Richards, 59, a veteran criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor. He primarily represents people accused of violent crimes or drug crimes.
He joined Mr. Rittenhouse’s defense team in September 2020, and took charge of the defense in January 2021, replacing John Pierce.
Another lawyer on the defense team is Corey Chirafisi, a former prosecutor based in Madison, Wis.
Twenty people — 11 women and nine men — were selected to hear the case, from a pool of about 150 prospective jurors.
Ultimately, 12 of the jurors will deliberate on a verdict.
The actions of two men who were killed and another who was wounded by Kyle Rittenhouse during unrest in Kenosha, Wis., last year will be scrutinized as part of Mr. Rittenhouse’s trial ,because of his claim that he fired in self-defense. Jurors are expected to see video of the events before the shootings. and may hear testimony from a man who was shot and survived.
Here is what we know about the people who were killed or wounded:
It is unclear why Joseph Rosenbaum, a 36-year-old from Kenosha, was on the street that night. The Washington Post has reported that he had been released from a hospital hours earlier after a suicide attempt.
Mr. Rosenbaum, the first person shot, lunged at an armed Mr. Rittenhouse shortly after another man fired a handgun into the air, according to a witness. Mr. Rosenbaum was unarmed. Prosecutors plan to argue that Mr. Rittenhouse chased him before the shooting.
Anthony Huber, who lived in Kenosha County, went downtown with his girlfriend to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake, one of Mr. Huber’s casual acquaintances, according to Anand Swaminathan, a lawyer for Mr. Huber’s family.
Mr. Huber, 26, was an avid skateboarder; video shows him hitting Mr. Rittenhouse, who had fallen to the ground, with his skateboard after Mr. Rosenbaum was shot. Mr. Huber’s lawyers, who are suing the authorities in Kenosha, wrote in a lawsuit that their client was trying to prevent more shootings.
“Anthony Huber is a hero,” the lawsuit reads. “He attempted to disarm Rittenhouse, end the gunfire, stop the bloodshed and protect his fellow citizens.”
Gaige Grosskreutz, of West Allis, Wis., was volunteering as a medic when he approached Mr. Rittenhouse with a handgun drawn as Mr. Huber was being shot.
Mr. Grosskreutz, 27, was shot in the arm. He survived, but lost 90 percent of his right biceps, according to a lawsuit he filed against the local authorities. His lawyer, Kimberley Motley, declined to discuss details of his life or the night’s events.
KENOSHA, Wis. — As protests raged across Wisconsin’s fourth-largest city in August 2020, one day after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, demonstrators in front of the city’s limestone courthouse lobbed projectiles at police officers, who fired back with canisters of tear gas.
But while bistros and jewelry shops along the lakefront downtown had been boarded up with plywood, as if braced for destruction, another part of the city was burning.
A mile away from the chaos downtown, the main commercial corridor of the economically depressed Uptown neighborhood, where many Black and Latino families lived, was engulfed in flames. Pink-tinged smoke billowed, visible for miles.
“It happened so quickly,” Sheriff David G. Beth said not long ago. “We did not anticipate them lighting small mom-and-pop businesses on fire.”
One year later, Kenosha’s downtown bears little trace of the unrest. Residents of the city of 100,000, a mostly white former industrial and car-making hub whose voters lean Democratic, have confronted the shooting of Mr. Blake in listening sessions and community coalitions on racism.
“People didn’t think Ferguson could happen here, they didn’t think Minneapolis could happen here,” Anthony Kennedy, a City Council member, said. “And when it did, it shook the foundation of some people, myself included.”
The City Council announced bias training and made plans to outfit the Police Department with body cameras, and for months the chief of police quietly met each Wednesday at a church with a new group made up of so-called violence interrupters, who seek to defuse violent episodes before officers become involved.
But Uptown appears frozen in time from the night of the protests. Much of the main commercial corridor is still boarded up or crumbling, the brick walls of empty businesses streaked with soot. Inside the shells of buildings that burned, debris is slowly rotting, the smell of mold wafting onto the sidewalk.
“You barely see people here anymore,” said Darrayal Jenkins, 40, as he walked past several burned buildings in July. “It’s like a ghost town.”
City officials have promised a renewed focus on Uptown, planning developments of apartments and businesses that would breathe life into it once again. Whether they will follow through has become a test of the city’s commitment to change after Mr. Blake’s shooting — and how far it will go to heal a neighborhood that is the home of so many Black families who say that they are still on the margins of civic life in Kenosha.