Jury begins deliberations in Wisconsin shooting trial

·2 min read

The jury began deliberations on Tuesday in the high-profile case of the American teenager who shot dead two men and wounded another during protests and riots against police brutality last year in the Wisconsin city of Kenosha.

Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, testified during the two-week trial that he shot the three men with his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle after being attacked.

Prosecutors dismissed the self-defense claim during closing arguments, saying it was the then 17-year-old Rittenhouse who "provoked" the events on the night of August 25, 2020.

"You cannot hide behind self-defense if you provoked the incident," Kenosha County assistant district attorney Thomas Binger said. "The defendant provoked everything."

"No reasonable person would have done what the defendant did," Binger told the jury. "And that makes your decision easy. He is guilty of all counts."

A jury of 18 people heard the case in a Kenosha courtroom not far from where the shootings occurred.

The jury was whittled down to the final 12 on Tuesday, in a quirky procedure that saw Rittenhouse himself drawing folded slips of paper with juror numbers out of a drum to determine which six would be excluded from deliberations.

Rittenhouse faces five counts -- one count of intentional homicide, one count of reckless homicide, one count of attempted intentional homicide and two counts of recklessly endangering safety.

The jury will have to render a unanimous verdict of guilty or not guilty on each charge.

The most serious charge -- intentional homicide -- carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

The case has drawn national attention because it arose from the "Black Lives Matter" demonstrations that swept the country last year.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has put 500 members of the state National Guard on standby in the event of trouble following a verdict.

- 'I defended myself' -

Civil unrest erupted in Kenosha, a city of 100,000 on the shores of Lake Michigan, in August 2020 after a white policeman shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, several times during an arrest, leaving him paralyzed.

In right-wing and pro-gun circles, Rittenhouse, who claims he went to Kenosha to protect businesses from arsonists and looters and act as a medic, has been painted as a heroic figure.

Testifying in court last week, Rittenhouse said he "didn't do anything wrong."

"I defended myself," he said. "I did not intend to kill them. I intended to stop the people who were attacking me."

Binger, the prosecutor, said Rittenhouse -- who lived in the neighboring state of Illinois -- had come to Kenosha as a self-appointed "junior policeman" and "made a series of reckless decisions."

"Nobody asked him to do that," he said. "Nobody deputized him."

Defense attorney Mark Richards said Rittenhouse "didn't shoot at anyone until he was chased and cornered."

"Every person who was shot was attacking Kyle -- one with a skateboard, one with his hands, one with his feet, one with a gun," he said.

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