MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) – The murder case against Kyle Rittenhouse flirted with an overturned trial on Wednesday after the senior prosecutor angered the judge with his questioning of the accused.
Rittenhouse’s lawyers called him to testify to his actions on August 25, 2020, when he shot dead three men, killing two and injuring a third, during protests on the streets of Kenosha that followed a white policeman shooting on Jacob Blake, a black man, while responding to a domestic turmoil.
Legal experts said it risked exposing Rittenhouse to harsh cross-examination, and Senior Prosecutor Thomas Binger did – with a series of questions that prompted Judge Bruce Schroeder to yell at him and say: “I don’t believe you” at one point. moment when Binger argued that he had acted in good faith.
Rittenhouse’s attorneys have said they will seek a quashing of the trial with prejudice – meaning the case could not be re-filed – and Schroeder said he would consider their request later.
So what was it that made the judge so angry?
Earlier this year, prosecutors sought leave to introduce into evidence a brief video taken 15 days before the protest shots, in which Rittenhouse is heard watching men walk out of a CVS drugstore and commenting that he wished he had his gun so he could shoot them because he thought they were shoplifters.
Binger argued in a preliminary hearing that this shows Rittenhouse’s state of mind as “a teenage vigilante, getting involved in things that don’t concern him.” But Schroeder questioned its relevance and said in a preliminary hearing that he was inclined not to allow it – but suggested he could reassess that at trial.
Binger dotted Rittenhouse question after question asking if it was okay to use deadly force to protect people. The defense ended up opposing it and Schroeder angrily sent the jury out.
When Binger told the judge he left the door open in his first ruling, Schroeder shouted, “For me! Not for you!”
Rittenhouse’s attorney also accused Binger of commenting on his client’s right to remain silent about the case, to which Binger responded that the accused was tailoring his testimony to details already presented in court.
It also angered Schroeder, who called it a “serious constitutional violation” to speak of the accused’s silence and warn him that he “had better stop”.
“It’s basically, it’s basic law in this country for 40 years, 50 years,” Schroeder said. “I have no idea why you would do something like this.”
Phil Turner, a Chicago-based defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, agreed.
“You can never, ever comment on the fact that the accused didn’t say anything,” Turner told The Associated Press. “He or she has the Fifth Amendment right not to self-incriminate.” You don’t come close as a prosecutor. Never.”
Although Schroeder took the request to quash the trial under advisement, it seemed unlikely that he would grant it. Towards the end of court day on Wednesday, he told the jury that he expected the case to end early next week.
“What Binger did was deliberate,” Daniel Adams, defense attorney and former Milwaukee County Deputy District Attorney, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “He didn’t ask for permission. He thought he could slip it in and beg forgiveness. He knew better. He tried to pull a quick one and he was called out. In a case where you have been preparing for months, this is of national importance, it was no accident.
But Adams said the judge would have to find Binger’s actions blatant for him to declare a trial quashed with bias. He said he did not recall when a judge had ever granted such a request.
Williams reported from West Bloomfield, Michigan.
Find full AP coverage of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial at: https://apnews.com/hub/kyle-rittenhouse