Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict: Fate of Kenosha Shooter Hinges on This Question

The jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial will began their deliberations on Tuesday after hearing conflicting viewpoints on why the then 17-year-old shot and killed two people and injured a third in Kenosha last August.

The 12-person jury in the highly divisive case must now decide on whether they share with the defense's view that Rittenhouse only killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber in self-defense while being attacked by an angry mob.

The prosecution's argument is that the defendant was a "chaos tourist" who traveled to the Wisconsin city to instigate violence and had no legal right to kill his unarmed victims.

The question of whether Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense that night in Kenosha is the main focal point of the trial, with Rittenhouse facing life in jail if he is found guilty of the most serious charges against him of first-degree reckless homicide and first-degree intentional homicide.

During closing arguments, the prosecution argued that the defendant lost the right to claim self-defense when he brought a semi-automatic rifle to the Black Lives Matter protests which broke out in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, lead prosecutor, noted how even though there were three nights of unrest in Kenosha amid the protests, Rittenhouse was the only person who killed anyone.

"You cannot claim self-defense against a danger you create. If you're the one threatening others, you lose the right to claim self-defense," Binger told the jury.

"The defendant brought a gun to a fistfight. You don't bring a gun to a fistfight. What the defendant wants you to believe is because he is the one who brought the gun, he gets to kill."

Binger added others who were in Kenosha that night also had the right to protect themselves from what they reasonably believed was an "active shooter."

"The defendant is not the only one in the world who has the right to self-defense," Binger said.

The prosecution also argued that while Rosenbaum's behavior that night was disruptive, including using threatening and racist language, lighting a dumpster on fire and chasing Rittenhouse and lunging towards the defendant's rifle, this does not mean the 18-year-old was allowed to shoot and kill him.

"If he were alive today ... I'd probably try and prosecute him for arson," Binger said. "But I can't because the defendant killed him. But that's the way we deal with people that do these things. When you commit arson, we prosecute you. We don't execute you in the street."

In their closing argument, the defense suggested Rittenhouse only traveled to Kenosha that night in order to protect the community.

Defense attorney Mark Richards also dismissed suggestions that Rosenbaum was not a threat to Rittenhouse, accusing him of being "hellbent" on causing trouble that night in Kenosha.

"He did what he did and he started this. There are tragic parts of this, but Kyle Rittenhouse's actions are protected under the law of self-defense," Richards said.

"Mr Rosenbaum was shot because he was chasing my client because he was going to kill him," Richards added. "Take his gun and carry out the threats he made."

Richards also said Rittenhouse was justified in defending himself from the angry mob who were attacking him.

"Every person who was shot was attacking Kyle: one with a skateboard, one with his hands, one with his feet, one with a gun," Richards said. "My client does not have to take a beating from the hands of this mob, or from the hands of Mr Rosenbaum."

One key moment during the trial arrived during the testimony of Gaige Grosskreutz, who Rittenhouse shot in the arm immediately after firing at Huber.

Under cross-examination, Grosskreutz admitted that Rittenhouse shot him after he pointed his own gun at the defendant.

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.

While this was seen as the prosecution's key witness inadvertently vindicating Rittenhouse self-defense claim, Christopher Slobogin, director of the criminal justice program at Vanderbilt University Law School in Tennessee, said the jury could also view it as Grosskreutz protecting himself from an active shooter who had already killed two unarmed people.

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

Elsewhere in the closing arguments, Richards claimed the whole case has been "political" and the prosecution need Rittenhouse to be blamed as "the person who brought terror to Kenosha," that night and not the protesters.

"Kyle Rittenhouse is not that individual," Richards said.

Kyle Rittenhouse verdict
Kyle Rittenhouse listens as the attorneys and the judge talk about jury instructions at the Kenosha County Courthouse. Rittenhouse is accused of shooting three demonstrators, killing two of them, during a night of unrest that erupted in Kenosha after a police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back while being arrested in August 2020. Sean Krajacic-Pool/Getty Images