The Kyle Rittenhouse Trial Story Explained

The closing arguments in the divisive trial of Kyle Rittenhouse take place on Monday after more than a year of intense coverage surrounding the case.

After two weeks of testimony, the defense and prosecution will outline their arguments surrounding the 18-year-old for the final time to the jury at Kenosha County Circuit court.

Rittenhouse is accused of first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and reckless endangerment (two counts) in connection to the shootings at the Black Lives Matter protests in August 2020.

Ahead of Monday's closing arguments, Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed a misdemeanor charge of being a minor in possession of a firearm against Rittenhouse, citing Wisconsin law regarding the length of barrel the defendant used at the time.

He faces life in prison if found guilty of the most severe offenses.

What Happened That Night?

Kenosha had already experienced two nights of unrest by the time then 17-year-old Rittenhouse traveled from his hometown of Antioch, Illinois, to attend the protests which erupted after Black man Jacob Blake was shot several times by a white police officer.

The entire case hinges on whether the jury believe Rittenhouse was in Kenosha that night in order to protect the city from the protesters and provide medical attention to those injured in the disorder, and only shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, as well as injure Gaige Grosskreutz, in self-defense.

The prosecution has argued that Rittenhouse, who had teamed up with an armed militia group that night, was a vigilante who helped instigate the violence and killed his unarmed victims without legal justification.

Before Rittenhouse fired at Rosenbaum, he was filmed standing with armed men saying they were protecting a gas station from being set on fire by the protesters.

He is later seen apparently being chased through the street by a group of men, with Rosenbaum throwing a plastic bag at him which the defendant originally thought was a Molotov cocktail, according to a criminal complaint.

Another man also apparently fired his gun in the air. Several more shots were then fired, although it is unclear where these came from.

After hearing the shots, Rittenhouse turned around while Rosenbaum is alleged to have lunged towards his rifle. Rittenhouse then fired four times, hitting Rosenbaum.

Further video from the scenes show Rittenhouse telling someone on his cellphone: "I just shot somebody, I had to shoot him."

Later on that night, more protesters were seen chasing Rittenhouse down the street in apparent attempts to detain him after he killed Rosenbaum.

After the teenager fell to the ground, Rittenhouse said one of the protesters attacked him, while Huber hits him with a skateboard. Rittenhouse fires twice, shooting the 26-year-old in the chest and arm.

Rittenhouse then fired at Gaige Grosskreutz, who was armed with a pistol, as he approached the defendant.

After the shootings, Rittenhouse fled down the street past police officers who did not stop and detain the juvenile still armed with a rifle. He was eventually arrested the following day.

What Happened at the Trial?

There have been several key moments in the trial since the proceedings opened on November 1.

In a potentially risky move, Rittenhouse took to the stand to give evidence himself at his own murder trial.

While giving his testimony, Rittenhouse broke down in tears and appeared to hyperventilate while describing the moments that led up to him shooting Rosenbaum.

He told the jury how protester Joshua Ziminski approached him with a pistol in his hand and that he was unable to flee because he was soon surrounded by the crowd.

"I look over my shoulder and Mr. Rosenbaum was now running from my right side and I was front of me with Ziminski...there were people...." Rittenhouse said before he became too emotional to speak.

Later on during cross-examination, Rittenhouse explained that he still felt like he was in danger despite Rosenbaum not being armed and him being in possession of a semi-automatic rifle.

"If I would have let Mr Rosenbaum take my firearm from me, he would have used it and killed me with it and probably killed more people," Rittenhouse said.

Jason Lackowski, a former Marine and a prosecution witness, dismissed Rittenhouse's suggestion that Rosenbaum was a threat that night. Lackowski described the 36-year-old as acting "belligerently" when he met him in Kenosha but perceived him more as a "babbling idiot" than someone who posed a lethal threat.

In one potentially damaging moment for the prosecution, Grosskreutz described while giving evidence how Rittenhouse only shot him after he pointed his own gun at him from point blank range.

Under cross-examination, 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.

Elsewhere during a heated day in court on November 10, Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder yelled at Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger over his conduct in court.

Binger was reprimanded after asking Rittenhouse about a video recorded weeks before the Kenosha protest in which he allegedly states he wished he had a rifle so he could shoot two people exiting a pharmacy because he thought they were shoplifters. The judge had previously ruled the video as inadmissible evidence.

The judge also condemned Binger for asking Rittenhouse why he is now only just speaking publicly about the case, despite defendants having the legal right to remain silent until their trial in order not to incriminate themselves.

"That's basic law. It's been basic law in this country for 40 years, 50 years. I have no idea why you would do something like that," Schroeder said.

"I don't know what you're up to. When you say you were acting in good faith, I don't believe you."

The move prompted the defense to call for a mistrial with prejudice, claiming the prosecution purposely sought to have the case thrown out because it was "going badly" for them.

Kyle Rittenhouse
Kyle Rittenhouse waits for the jury to enter the room to continue testifying during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse on November 10, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Kyle Rittenhouse/Getty Images

How Are People Viewing the Case?

As with everything surrounding the trial, people have had polarizing views regarding Rittenhouse.

For months, the 18-year-old has been supported by conservative and far-right figures, who view him as a hero acting in self-defense as left-wing protesters caused destruction in another another city in the name of Black Lives Matter protests.

Others have suggested Rittenhouse has benefited from white privilege and that the focus surrounding the trial would be drastically different if Rittenhouse was Black.

Speaking on his Fox News show on November 10, Tucker Carlson said that Rittenhouse had "already won the case" before he gave evidence, suggesting he was acting in self-defense while trying to stop the "violent insanity" which erupted in Kenosha and other cities in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

"In Kenosha, the police barely even showed up. Officers in armored cruisers sat and watched as rioters torched a car lot with more than 100 vehicles in it. And they did nothing to stop the chaos," Carlson said.

"The question, then, is how exactly are we surprised when a 17-year-old lifeguard from Illinois decides to step in? They hate it when you say that, but it's an entirely fair question. When legitimate authority refuses to do its duty, its sworn duty, others will fill the vacuum."

Writing for NBC News, Issac Bailey, professor of public policy at Davidson College and author of Why Didn't We Riot? A Black Man in Trumpland suggested it doesn't matter if Rittenhouse is found guilty or not as he has "already won" with regards to how he will be seen.

"If he is freed, the status quo of America's flawed criminal justice system, in which white offenders are less likely to be convicted, can remain just a little bit longer, the inevitable merely delayed, if not denied," Bailey said.

"If he's imprisoned, those sympathetic to his plight have even more reason to use him as an example of how their way of life could be threatened if they don't fight, and hard. His supporters have basically guaranteed those outcomes."

Kyle Rittenhouse trial
Kyle Rittenhouse peers at the screen as attorneys for both sides argue about a video in Kenosha (Wisconsin) Circuit Court on November 12, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Mark Hertzberg-Pool/Getty Images