KENOSHA, Wis. — Testimony concluded in the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial Thursday, bringing a case that has been a flashpoint in the national debate over gun rights and racial inequities close to its end.
Deliberations are expected to begin Monday, following closing arguments and lengthy reading of jury instructions.
In August 2020, Rittenhouse — a 17-year-old from Antioch, Illinois — crossed state lines and volunteered to patrol downtown Kenosha amid turmoil surrounding the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white police officer. Carrying an AR-15-style rifle that police say a friend illegally purchased for him, Rittenhouse fatally shot two people and injured a third.
Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty, arguing that he killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz in self-defense.
He faces six charges, including the intentional homicides of Rosenbaum and Huber. The prosecution also indicated Thursday that it would offer the jury so-called lesser charges for both slayings, which means jurors would have the option of finding Rittenhouse guilty of something less serious than murder in both men’s deaths.
The prosecution told Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder that it had not yet finalized the charges it intended to present to the jury.
Jurors have heard from 31 witnesses over the past eight days, including Rittenhouse, who took the stand in his own defense Wednesday. The teen testified that he shot three people that night because he believed they were going to kill him.
“Two of them passed away, but I stopped the threat that was attacking me,” he testified.
Though defendants rarely testify at their own criminal trials, it’s common in self-defense cases where the accused’s mindset plays a key role in the case. As in other states, Wisconsin law holds that a person can shoot if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to avoid being killed or badly hurt.
The predominantly white jury consists of 10 women and eight men from Kenosha, a political swing county in the southeastern part of Wisconsin. Though only 12 members will deliberate on a verdict, the panel includes a special education teacher, a pharmacist, several gun owners and a woman who described her fears during the chaotic protests.
Addressing jurors at the end of the day, Schroeder told them they would return Monday morning to hear closing arguments and that 12 of 18 of them would be selected to deliberate on a verdict. He indicated an old, brown lottery tumbler sitting on a window ledge across the ornate courtroom where names or numbers of the 18 would be placed through a hatch at the top of the device, which would then be spun before drawing 12 back out.