Journalism

journalism

By Mark Guarino and Mark Berman

November 11, 2021|Updated November 11, 2021 at 9:30 p.m. EST

It took a little more than a minute for Kyle Rittenhouse to fire all of his shots last year in Kenosha, Wis., killing two people and wounding a third, an expert called by his defense team testified Thursday.

John Black, a former longtime police official and use-of-force expert, said he conducted a detailed review of video footage of the shootings to pinpoint when they occurred. One minute and 20 seconds elapsed from the first shot to the last, with each shooting lasting only seconds, Black said, underscoring how little time it took for the gunfire that left two people dead and set off a nationwide firestorm.

Rittenhouse is charged with homicide and attempted homicide for those August 2020 shootings, and his trial so far has been dominated by video footage of the gunfire, with recordings played and replayed in court. Black said videos can be beneficial to analysts studying what happened, but he noted that there are limits to what any footage can show.

“Video has great value, but it is not the experience or the perception of the people involved in the event,” he said. “It can’t be.”

Rittenhouse, then 17, traveled to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Ill., about 20 miles away, when the city was shaken last year by protests and rioting after a police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the back.

Prosecutors in Rittenhouse’s trial have depicted him as a dangerous vigilante. Rittenhouse’s defense attorneys argue that the teenager only fired in self-defense, and he has pleaded not guilty.

Rittenhouse’s attorneys have said he was facing dangerous threats and had to act to save himself, and Black’s second-by-second breakdown appeared aimed at showing just how quickly things were happening. Prosecutors, meanwhile, have argued that the case is about more than just those seconds, saying issues began when Rittenhouse went to Kenosha, picking up a rifle someone else had purchased for him.

During his testimony, Black described himself as a former law enforcement official who spent more than two decades as an officer in Oregon. He had previously appeared in court during a pretrial hearing in Rittenhouse’s case in early October. During that appearance, Black said he believed Rittenhouse’s actions align with the state’s self-defense laws and “were reasonably necessary” given the circumstances.

In his testimony, Black said “approximately” 2¾ seconds passed between the gunshot ringing out nearby and Rittenhouse firing his first bullet.

Black’s appearance on the stand came on the final day of testimony in Rittenhouse’s divisive trial, which began last week.

The prosecution rested earlier this week and the defense rested Thursday afternoon. Judge Bruce Schroeder said both sides will deliver their closing arguments on Monday, and after that, Rittenhouse’s fate will be placed in the hands of a dozen jurors selected from Kenosha County.

Rittenhouse testified for much of the day Wednesday, offering his first extended public remarks on the shootings. The 18-year-old emotionally broke down on the stand at one point, later saying he was attacked and in danger that night.

“I defended myself,” he said.

Rittenhouse said Rosenbaum and Huber had pursued him and grabbed his gun, while Grosskreutz approached him while pointing a gun at the teenager. “I didn't want to have to kill anybody that night,” Rittenhouse said.

While his testimony was the trial’s main focus Wednesday, the proceedings were also marked by several heated outbursts from Schroeder.

The judge repeatedly chastised Thomas C. Binger, one of the prosecutors, for what he said were improper actions violating previous rulings. At various points, Schroeder admonished, interrupted and scolded Binger, telling him at one point: “Don’t get brazen with me.”

In one moment that drew Schroeder’s ire, Binger was questioning Rittenhouse and mentioned that the teen had not spoken in detail about the shootings before his testimony. Schroeder quickly had the jurors taken out of the room and told the prosecutor he was dangerously close to touching on Rittenhouse’s right to remain silent, which Binger denied he was doing.

Another fraught moment centered on possible evidence prosecutors had sought to include but that Schroeder signaled he was not going to allow. Binger said he believed the judge had “left the door open” to that evidence, rather than banning it outright, telling Schroeder that was his “good-faith explanation to you.”

“I don’t believe you,” Schroeder shot back. “When you say that you were acting in good faith, I don’t believe that.”

Rittenhouse’s defense attorneys also took aim at prosecutors, saying they hoped to have a mistrial with prejudice declared, preventing their client from being prosecuted again. Schroeder did not immediately rule on the issue and continued discussing the trial’s coming schedule after that was brought up.

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