Will Kyle Rittenhouse Be Acquitted? What Gaige Grosskreutz Testimony Means for Trial

Legal experts are divided on whether the testimony of Gaige Grosskreutz, a key prosecution witness in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, vindicates the 18-year-old's argument that he acted in self-defense.

Grosskreutz—who was shot and injured by Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 25, 2020—took to the stand on Monday to give evidence in the teenager's homicide trial.

Under cross-examination, Grosskreutz said Rittenhouse had fired at him after he had pointed his own handgun at him. Rittenhouse, who was then 17, was on the ground having just been attacked with a skateboard by Anthony Huber.

Huber, 26, and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, were shot and killed by Rittenhouse.

Rittenhouse's lawyer Corey Chirafisi asked Grosskreutz: "It wasn't until you pointed your gun at him, advanced on him with your gun—now your hands down, pointed at him—that he fired, right?"

"Correct," Grosskreutz replied.

Some legal experts and Rittenhouse supporters have suggested that this was the moment that the prosecution's argument—that Rittenhouse was not acting in self defense and actually helped to initiate the violence in Kenosha—fell apart.

Christopher Slobogin, director of the criminal justice program at Vanderbilt University Law School in Tennessee, does not agree. He told Newsweek that Grosskreutz's testimony looked bad for the prosecution "in isolation," but the jury must take into account what occurred before the shooting.

"Bottom line is that the chronology of the shots is very important," Slobogin said.

"Gaige only pointed his gun at Rittenhouse after he shot the first two individuals. This testimony could actually hurt Rittenhouse's self-defense argument because the prosecution can argue Gaige was trying to protect himself from a man who was shooting everything in sight, including two unarmed people.

"You don't get a self defense to murder if you're the first to use deadly force."

Rittenhouse trial should be over immediately. pic.twitter.com/PHZnHS5rD9

— Viva Frei (@thevivafrei) November 8, 2021

Elsewhere during his testimony, Grosskreutz told the jury he thought that Rittenhouse was an active shooter that night and thought that he "was going to die."

Under Wisconsin law, a person is allowed to use deadly force in self defense if "necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm."

Rittenhouse's lawyers have argued that the suspect came to Kenosha to provide medical assistance and protect the city during the disorder and only fired his semi-automatic rifle while being chased and attacked by angry protesters.

Even if the jury rules that Rittenhouse's actions did not constitute murder, the defense may argue that he should be convicted of manslaughter.

"Self defense is obviously what they [Rittenhouse's lawyers] want, because that results in acquittal," Slobogin said.

"But if they don't think they're going to win that, they want to at least give the jury the option of finding imperfect self defense. This would mean it was unreasonable for him to shoot, but he thought he needed to as he was honestly fearful for his life.

"If he wins that argument, the charges get knocked down from murder to manslaughter, which is a much less serious penalty."

Andrew Branca, a Colorado lawyer who specializes in self defense, took a different view of Grosskreutz's testimony, claiming it was a "catastrophe" for the prosecution.

"Grosskreutz is fortunate that modern American courtrooms don't do trial by combat, because otherwise he'd have been carried out of the courtroom mortality [sic] wounded by his own testimony," Branca wrote in his blog, where he gives daily updates on the Rittenhouse trial.

Branca said Grosskreutz testified that Rittenhouse had only fired his weapon at those who were chasing or attacking him, and that he tried to intervene when Huber was attacking him with a skateboard because he believed Rittenhouse was in danger of being seriously hurt. The defense also pointed out that Grosskreutz was unlawfully in possession of the pistol he pointed at Rittenhouse.

"As I stepped through the cross-examination of Grosskreutz today, I identified no fewer than 19 substantive portions, nearly 50 percent of the total time spent on cross by Attorney Chirafisi, that were substantively destructive to the State's narrative of guilt, and helpful to the defense narrative of self-defense," Branca added.

kyle rittenhouse Gaige Grosskreutz
Gaige Grosskreutz (R) watches video as he testifies about being shot by Kyle Rittenhouse (L) at Kenosha County Courthouse in Wisconsin on November 8. Mark Hertzberg-Pool/Getty Images