Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder said on Monday that prosecutors cannot refer to the men shot by Kyle Rittenhouse as “victims” at any time during the upcoming November murder trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The judge cautioned the defense team against using pejorative terms such as “rioters” or “looters” during opening statements, but he said they could use them in their closing arguments if the evidence suggested the men engaged in criminal acts.
“He can demonize them if he wants, if he thinks it will win points with the jury,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder earlier had ruled the three men cannot be referred to as “victims” during the trial because it would be prejudicial to Rittenhouse. Such rulings are not uncommon in self-defense cases where there is a dispute over who bears responsibility.
“The word victim is a loaded, loaded word,” Schroeder said.
Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty by reason of self-defense when he fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz in August 2020. Rittenhouse volunteered to be an armed security guard in Kenosha although he was not old enough to openly carry a gun.
Jury selection is set to begin November 1, but the prosecution team was clearly frustrated and suggested the judge was creating a double standard by allowing Rosenbaum and Huber to be disparaged when they could not defend themselves.
The terms “rioter, looter and arsonist are as loaded, if not more loaded, than the term victim,” Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger said.
The defense will argue that Rosenbaum was particularly perceived as a danger as he threatened to kill people and engaged in arson. However, those acts did not occur in the moments immediately preceding the fatal shooting.
“This is an attempt to tell the jury that Mr. Rosenbaum was a bad guy who deserved to die,” Binger said. “That’s really what’s going on here, your honor.”
Schroeder also agreed to allow evidence showing that law enforcement officers offered water and thanks to the volunteers on patrol that night.
In opting to allow the evidence, Schroeder said he wouldn’t permit the defense to argue the encouraging words reflected the police department’s overall opinion. It could, however, help explain Rittenhouse’s mindset that night.