NOVEMBER 16, 2021 By Eddie Scarry
Closing arguments of Wisconsin state prosecutors against Kyle Rittenhouse can best be summed up for the jury as, “Never mind! Don’t believe the video evidence or independent witnesses introduced in this trial; believe this alternate version of events that we’re telling you right now instead.”
Deliberations start Tuesday, and the jury has two options. It can acquit Rittenhouse based on scores of video evidence and testimony that show and say Rittenhouse shot three men who were chasing him and trying to get his gun. Or it can convict him based on a weird story that contradicts the state’s own witnesses and that requires a belief that 18-year-old Rittenhouse, for no obvious reason, felt like shooting some random people, all white men, that night last August.
During summations on Monday, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger claimed that Rittenhouse was in Kenosha, Wis., at the time because, “We all know someone like the defendant,” who “enjoys the thrill of telling people what to do without the courage or honor to back it up.”
This is the baby-faced, then-17-year-old jurors saw on video walking around that night with a medic kit calling out “medical” to protestors on the scene who might need assistance and “friendly, friendly, friendly” so rioters would know he posed no threat.
Binger then described Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, as having done no wrong that evening of rioting before he was hunted down by a bloodthirsty Rittenhouse. By contrast, jurors had seen Rosenbaum on video antagonizing others, lighting a dumpster on fire, and repeatedly yelling at someone, “Shoot me, n——!”
It was Rosenbaum whom witnesses said was yelling at bystanders that he would kill them. It was Rosenbaum who someone described as a “babbling idiot.” And it was ultimately Rosenbaum who then chased Rittenhouse into a dark parking lot before finding himself at the wrong end of an AR-15, and who, again, according to a witness, tried grabbing the barrel before being shot.
The overwhelming evidence showed that Rittenhouse shot someone who was pursuing him. After that, he headed in the direction of police as a mindless mob of rioters gathered to take him down. Two more men made attempts at taking Rittenhouse’s gun, with one of them striking him over the head with a skateboard while he was on the ground. The other one pointed his own gun at Rittenhouse.
Binger, however, is insisting to jurors that they disregard the video evidence and his own witnesses. They should instead trust in his personal assessment that Rittenhouse is a person who “enjoys the thrill of telling people what to do without the courage or honor to back it up.” Whatever that means.
If you told me Binger was given this case as part of a humiliating hazing ritual, I’d believe it. I’d even be relieved to know that he followed through with the case against his will and isn’t actually this stupid.
It’s possible that the jury, nervous about more rioting that an acquittal could bring, will choose Binger’s storyline. If they do, it will mean they followed the prosecutor’s suggestion to set aside what they saw on video and heard from Binger’s own witnesses.