[guest post by JVW]
Today was a busy day at the Kyle Rittenhouse murder/manslaughter trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Patterico has chronicled the woes that the prosecution team has faced either due to their ineptitude or (my theory) because they secretly do not want a conviction but can’t afford politically not to see this case to its bitter conclusion. Closing arguments commenced today (Legal Insurrection has been live-blogging it here), and there was one major development announced in court. Here are the basic facts from National Review Online:
The judge presiding over Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial has dismissed a lesser weapons charge which held that the 17-year-old was too young to legally carry the AR-15 he used to shoot three people during the riots in Kenosha, Wisc., last year.
Rittenhouse previously faced up to nine months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted on the misdemeanor weapons charge. Judge Bruce Schroeder commented in the courtroom last week that the law delineating the misdemeanor charge could be too difficult for an “ordinary citizen” to understand.
“I have been wrestling with this statute with, I’d hate to count the hours I’ve put into it, I’m still trying to figure out what it says, what’s prohibited. I have a legal education,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder’s decision to drop the misdemeanor came on the day of closing arguments in Rittenhouse’s trial. The jury will still consider five felony charges brought against Rittenhouse, including first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide.
The problem here stems from the vagueness of the Wisconsin statue(s) under which young Mr. Rittenhouse has been charged. Despite what the vast majority of the mainstream media has been telling us for close to the past fifteen months, it’s not at all clear if it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to be in possession of an AR-15, which was the rifle the accused was sporting on that fateful night in August 2020. It is apparently explicitly spelled out in Badger State law that a minor may not possess a weapon of a certain barrel length, but the prosecution (you will not at all be surprised to hear this one) never bothered to enter into evidence the barrel length of the weapon which Mr. Rittenhouse is believed to have wielded and used to kill two men and wound a third. The judge, citing the law’s ambiguity and lack of evidence, has thus dismissed the charge.
Another important development is that the prosecutor has requested that the jury be allowed to consider lesser charges than the first-degree homicide charges that the defendant is currently facing, and the defense agreed to the request. This, as Judge Schroeder explained to Mr. Rittenhouse, makes it somewhat more likely that the jury could possibly agree on some form of guilty verdict to a lesser charge, yet at the same time it also lessens the possibility of a deadlocked trial which might compel the Kenosha District Attorney’s office to try Mr. Rittenhouse all over again.
According to Andrew Branca at Legal Insurrection, in its closing statement the prosecution seems to be basing their entire summation on the idea that Kyle Rittenhouse provoked the attacks first from Joseph Rosenbaum and then Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz. If accepted by the jury, this would render any claim of self-defense by Mr. Rittenhouse invalid. Mr. Branca (who is clearly on the defense’s side) characterizes the prosecution’s case as hinging on a moment of grainy video taken from a drone which purports to show Mr. Rittenhouse leveling his rifle at an unseen offscreen target who the prosecution contends was Joshua Ziminski, an armed rioter currently facing charges stemming from that night and curiously was not called to testify by either the prosecution or the defense.
Jonathan Turley wonders if the sudden dismissal of the illegal weapon possession charge might lead the jurors to question the soundness of the prosecution’s case.
I don’t know if the defense was able to make their closing argument today, but it is past 4:30 pm Central Time so perhaps they did not. In that case, I assume everyone will be back at it tomorrow. Governor Tony Evers is calling in 500 state guard troops to patrol the streets once the verdict comes in, and as at least one Twitter wag has pointed out, had the same wise decision been made in the aftermath of the Jacob Blake shooting and subsequent riots, perhaps Kyle Rittenhouse would have stayed home in Illinois on the night of August 25, 2020.
UPDATE 4:08 pm – Thank you to BuDuh who pointed me to a videoclip where the prosecution acknowledges that the rifle Mr. Rittenhouse was carrying that night was not prohibited for use by a minor due to barrel or length limits.
Judge in Rittenhouse trial has dismissed Rittenhouse's gun charge. pic.twitter.com/v1x1QTBrGf
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) November 15, 2021