In a surprise move, Kyle Rittenhouse took the witness stand in his trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday to support his claim of self-defense in shooting three rioters in August of last year, killing two of them.
During his cross-examination by the state, Judge Bruce Schroeder temporarily excused the jury from the courtroom to accuse the prosecution of “grave” constitutional violations after Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger attempted to question Rittenhouse about why he had not previously made any statements about the facts of the case publicly.
During his direct testimony, Rittenhouse recalled the events on the streets of Kenosha last August 25, when he fired his AR-15 rifle at members of a riotous mob that attacked him during the Black Lives Matter demonstration that had turned highly violent. He broke down emotionally when describing the actual shootings, leading the judge to call for a short recess.
Binger began his cross-examination by asking Rittenhouse if he had watched videos of the events of August 25 and if he had read reports and articles about the shootings. Rittenhouse said that he had seen videos during the trial but had done his best to avoid media accounts of the case. Binger had Rittenhouse also confirm that he had seen the exhibits and heard the testimony of the witnesses during the trial.
As Binger began a line of questions that seemed headed toward implying that Rittenhouse had acted in a self-interested way by refusing to make public statements before the trial and that he may have formed his testimony based on the statements of other witnesses, the court quickly had the jury leave the courtroom.
When the jury was outside of the courtroom, the judge blasted Binger, demanding that he “account for this.” Rittenhouse’s defense attorney objected to Binger’s attempt to comment on the defendant’s right to remain silent.
The judge told Binger that his actions were a “grave constitutional violation” and said that he was “right on the borderline” of a mistrial and “maybe over it.”
Soon after the jury had been brought back into the courtroom, Binger began to ask Rittenhouse questions about statements he made before August 25 about using a gun to defend property rather than human life. The court had ruled before the trial began that such questions would not be permitted before the jury.
The judge again excused the jury and admonished Binger yet again. The defense asked for the admonishment and said that a motion for a mistrial with prejudice might be appropriate. Prejudice in such an order would end the trial and prevent the state from refiling any charges against the defendant for the same actions.
Judge Schroeder laid into Binger again, telling Binger not to “get brazen” with him about his argumentative tone.
The judge said that he was astonished at Binger’s behavior and told him that he did not want to have another issue during the trial.