For there to be a murder conviction in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, two things have to happen: Jurors must feel intimidated into rendering a guilty verdict and prosecutors must convince those jurors of a version of events that directly contradicts eye-witness testimony and what is plainly seen on video.
The intimidation factor is already in the bag. Multiple jurors expressed this week that they believed that “half the country will be up in arms” regardless of the trial’s outcome, that they were “afraid of our community and the outsiders of our community that are coming in,” and wondering “Am I gonna get home safe?”
The second half is a little trickier, but damned if the state isn’t already trying. In his opening argument on Tuesday, Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger painted a wild version of events that isn’t even close to what’s in the state’s original criminal complaint against Rittenhouse.
“The shot that killed Mr. Rosenbaum was a shot to the back,” he said Tuesday. “This occurred after the defendant chased down Mr. Rosenbaum and confronted him while wielding that AR-15.”
I don’t know how Binger plans to convince the jury that their eyes are deceiving them because unfortunately for him, the overwhelming evidence does not sit with his story and the court will eventually hear and, more importantly, see all of it.
The state’s complaint, backed by video evidence, says that on that night of rioting in August 2020, Joseph Rosenbaum was seen “following” Rittenhouse, 17 years old at the time, across a parking lot. Rosenbaum “appears to continue to approach” Rittenhouse, who then fired his AR-15 four times. A witness, journalist Richard McGinnis, told authorities he saw Rosenbaum “initially try to engage” Rittenhouse and “trying to get closer” to him, the complaint says.
At that point, Rittenhouse “did a ‘juke’ move and started running.” Others nearby also began giving chase after Rittenhouse, who was, according to McGinnis, “trying to evade these individuals,” the complaint says. Rittenhouse had his firearm pointed downward, but Rosenbaum, 36, “was trying to grab the barrel of the gun,” according to the complaint, citing McGinnis’s testimony. Rittenhouse then raised the weapon and shot Rosenbaum.
As for the bullet that Rosenbaum took to the back, Binger seemed to suggest that it was the lone shot. It wasn’t. That bullet hit Rosenbaum only after he was shot in the front at least two times while advancing on Rittenhouse. As he fell forward, Rittenhouse continued to shoot, and that’s when he was struck in the back.
This is, again, the version of events as relayed contemporaneously by a first-hand witness and as documented on multiple video recordings.
Only one day of the trial has passed and maybe Binger really does know magic. That’s probably what it will take to get anyone to believe the story he’s telling.