The jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial deliberated on a verdict for the third day on Thursday, while the judge considered the defense’s request for a mistrial.
A key piece of evidence in the prosecution’s case – a drone video showing Rittenhouse fatally shooting the first man he fired at on the night of Aug. 25, 2020 – was called into question Wednesday after Rittenhouse’s defense lawyers claimed they received a lower quality version of the clip.
Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, and attempted first-degree intentional homicide in connection with shootings that occurred during a violent night of protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. If convicted of the most serious charge, he faces a mandatory life sentence.
The mistrial request was the latest twist in a dramatic trial that lasted more than a week and included dozens of witnesses and videos. Rittenhouse and his attorneys claim he was defending himself, while the state claims the then-17-year-old was looking for a fight after bringing his AR-15 style rifle downtown, resulting in an active shooter situation.
Judge Bruce Schroeder has yet to rule on the mistrial motion, despite receiving both harsh criticism and high praise for his handling of the case. He has also not ruled on a separate defense motion for a mistrial with prejudice, which means Rittenhouse cannot be tried again.
During the tense night of protests, Rittenhouse fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and injured Gaige Grosskreutz. The riots erupted after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man who was paralyzed from the waist down. The officer was found not guilty of any federal or state charges.
Rittenhouse is also charged with two counts of reckless endangerment, and the jury was told to consider lesser included charges on certain counts. On Wednesday, jurors sent a question to Schroder about how to view the video evidence, and the lawyers got into a heated debate about the key drone video.
In the afternoon, defense attorney Corey Chirafisi requested a mistrial, claiming that the issue was one of basic fairness and that they didn’t realize the clip was of lower quality until Friday, when both sides were debating jury instructions.
The video in question is central to the state’s claim that Rittenhouse provoked the attack, casting doubt on his ability to claim self-defense. According to prosecutors, the video shows Rittenhouse raising his rifle at a couple who had been with Rosenbaum for the majority of the night. They claim that this action prompted Rosenbaum to pursue Rittenhouse, who shot the unarmed Rosenbaum four times after they ran across a parking lot.
The defense claimed that the video did not show that, and that Rosenbaum had been acting aggressively and irrationally all night, threatening to kill Rittenhouse if he caught him alone.
The video was not used in the trial until Nov. 5, when a former employee of the company that operated the drone dropped it off with a detective, according to Assistant District Attorney James Kraus. The file was condensed at some point during the process of sharing the video with defense attorneys, lowering its quality.
Schroeder allowed the jury to continue viewing the evidence on Wednesday, but said the mistrial requests would have to be addressed if there was a guilty verdict. Even if Rittenhouse is convicted, the judge may grant the motion to dismiss with prejudice. Rittenhouse may also file an appeal on the same grounds.
The new mistrial request appeared to indicate a growing defense concern about a possible guilty verdict, which Rittenhouse’s supporters had previously dismissed as they predicted quick acquittals. Last week, defense attorneys requested a mistrial. The defense claimed that prosecutors improperly commented on Rittenhouse’s right to remain silent and later attempted to introduce evidence that the judge had previously ruled was inadmissible.