A judge on Tuesday ruled that attorneys in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse may not refer to the men the teen shot during a Kenosha, Wis., protest as “victims.”
Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder said the lawyers could refer to Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, who were killed by Rittenhouse, and Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, who was injured, as “rioters,” “looters” and “arsonists” but said the term “victims” was too “loaded.”
“The word ‘victim’ is a loaded, loaded word,” he said. “‘Alleged victim’ is a cousin to it.”
Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to charges of homicide and attempted homicide for shooting the three men after traveling from his home in Antioch, Ill., to Kenosha during a late August protest last year over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by White police officer Rusten Sheskey.
He was 17 years old at the time but will be tried as an adult.
Schroeder also advised Rittenhouse’s team against using pejorative terms to describe the three men who were shot but could use such language in their closing arguments if evidence showed they participated in criminal acts.
“He can demonize them if he wants, if he thinks it will win points with the jury,” said Schroeder.
“If more than one of them were engaged in arson, rioting, looting, I’m not going to tell the defense you can’t call them that.”
Grosskreutz, the lone survivor of the three, has not been charged with any crimes on the night of the shooting.
Schroeder also rejected a request from the prosecution to block any evidence that local law enforcement provided water to vigilantes such as Rittenhouse and thanked them for their presence on the night of the shooting.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger questioned Schroeder’s decision, stating the terms he chose to allow are at least equally as loaded as “victim.”
“The terms that I’m identifying here such as ‘rioter,’ ‘looter’ and ‘arsonist’ are as loaded, if not more loaded, than the term ‘victim,'” he said.
Rittenhouse’s attorney, Mark Richards, defended the judge’s ruling in an email to The Washington Post.
“It has been this judge’s practice to refer to complaining witnesses as just that, ultimately the jury will decide after hearing all the evidence if these individuals are in fact ‘victims,'” Richards wrote. “If I refer to someone who is starting fires and threatening people with death as a ‘rioter,’ that is the correct term. If I am wrong or misusing the terms, the jury will hold me to account.”
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