Instigator or victim? Prosecutors, defense lay out Rittenhouse arguments

A prosecutor says Kyle Rittenhouse instigated the confrontation that led him to shoot three people on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, during a turbulent protest against racial injustice. But Rittenhouse’s attorney says his client acted in self-defense after one of the men dove for his gun and others kicked him in the face and clubbed him in the head with a skateboard.

The two accounts came during opening statements Tuesday at Rittenhouse’s murder trial. Rittenhouse, now 18, is charged with killing two men and wounding a third with an assault-style rifle during the summer of 2020.

Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger told jurors that there was no question that Rittenhouse is the one who fired the shots, saying Rittenhouse was the only person who fired shots that killed people that night.

Defense attorney Mark Richards said Rittenhouse had been threatened and disputed characterizations that he was "hunting" a person who was shot. Responding to reports that Rittenhouse is from Illinois, Richards said Rittenhouse has strong ties to Kenosha because his dad lived there and Rittenhouse had worked in the county as a lifeguard.

The homicide charges against Rittenhouse include one count of reckless homicide, one count of intentional homicide and one of attempted intentional homicide.

A legal expert says the difference in the charges is that prosecutors aren’t alleging that Rittenhouse intended to kill the first man he shot. But the charges in the other two shootings allege that Rittenhouse intended to shoot those men.

He could get life in prison if convicted.

Judge Bruce Schroeder says the trial is expected to last two weeks.