A Wisconsin judge has ruled that attorneys for a man accused of shooting three protesters during last summer’s anti-police riots can refer to them as “rioters,” “looters” and “arsonists.”
In an evidentiary hearing, Judge Bruce Schroeder also ruled that the three White men whom Kyle Rittenhouse shot, two of them fatally, cannot be referred to as “victims.”
That term is “loaded,” the judge ruled, because it presupposes that Mr. Rittenhouse was not acting in self-defense.
Mr. Rittenhouse, who also is White, is charged with homicide and other crimes in the fatal shootings of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and the wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz.
Judge Schroeder denied a request from the prosecution preventing defense attorneys from referring to the three men that way if the evidence shows that.
“If more than one of them were engaged in arson, rioting, looting, I’m not going to tell the defense you can’t call them that,” the judge said.
Monday’s hearing laid out the final ground rules on what evidence will be allowed when Mr. Rittenhouse goes on trial next week, and the judge handed Mr. Rittenhouse‘s lawyers most of what they sought.
The hearing was likely the last before Mr. Rittenhouse goes on trial Nov. 1 for the shootings during chaotic demonstrations in Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020, two days after a white police officer in that city shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, in the back while responding to a domestic disturbance.
Mr. Rittenhouse, 18, of Antioch, Illinois, was among a number of people who responded to calls on social media to take up arms and come to Kenosha to respond to the protests.
Judge Schroeder said Monday he would permit limited testimony from the defense’s use-of-force expert and on how police welcomed Rittenhouse and others carrying guns during the demonstration.
Mr. Rittenhouse’s attorneys want use-of-force expert John Black to testify that their client acted in self-defense. Prosecutors argued that jurors don’t need an expert to understand what happened that night.
Judge Schroeder told the attorneys that Mr. Black wouldn’t be allowed to testify about what Mr. Rittenhouse was thinking when he pulled the trigger or whether he definitively acted in self-defense.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger said if Judge Schroeder allowed Mr. Black to testify only about the timeline of events that night he wouldn’t call his own expert to the stand. Defense attorney Mark Richards agreed to the deal.
Mr. Binger also asked Judge Schroeder to bar a video that shows police telling Mr. Rittenhouse and other armed militia members on the streets that they appreciated their presence and tossing Mr. Rittenhouse a bottle of water. The prosecutor said the video would transform the trial into a referendum on police procedure that night when it isn’t relevant.
“This is a case about what the defendant did that night,” Mr. Binger said. “I’m concerned this will be turned into a trial about what law enforcement did or didn’t do that night.”
Defense attorney Corey Chirafisi argued the video shows that police felt Mr. Rittenhouse wasn’t acting recklessly.
Judge Schroeder decided to allow the video.
“If the jury is being told, if the defendant is walking down the sidewalk and doing what he claims he was hired to do and police say good thing you’re here, is that something influencing the defendant and emboldening him in his behavior? That would be an argument for relevance,” the judge said.
Many conservatives have flocked to support Mr. Rittenhouse, calling him a patriot and making him a symbol for gun rights and raising $2 million for his bail. Others, including some liberals and Democratic politicians, portray him as a domestic terrorist and say he made a volatile situation worse.
• This article is based in part on wire-service reports.