Judge will allow Kyle Rittenhouse's defense to refer to the men he shot as 'rioters,' 'looters,' or 'arsonists' at trial

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Judge will allow Kyle Rittenhouse's defense to refer to the men he shot as 'rioters,' 'looters,' or 'arsonists' at trial
Kyle Rittenhouse appears at a pretrial hearing in Kenosha Circuit Court, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, in advance of his trial which is scheduled to begin Nov. 1, in Kenosha, Wis. Mark Hertzberg/Pool via Associated Press
  • Kyle Rittenhouse's lawyers will be allowed to describe the men he shot as "looters" and "rioters," a judge ruled.
  • Prosecutors had argued that was unfair, since they were banned from describing the three men as "victims."

A Wisconsin judge ruled Monday that Kyle Rittenhouse's defense team is free to refer to the men he shot as "rioters," "looters," or "arsonists" during the teenager's upcoming trial - so long as they provide evidence.

Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with fatally shooting two men and injuring a third amid civil unrest in August 2020 following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty and claimed self-defense, saying he opened fire on Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, and Gaige Grosskreutz because they were chasing him.

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Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder issued the ruling after prosecutors had argued that Rittenhouse's lawyers should be banned from using "pejorative terms" to describe Rosenbaum, Huber, and Grosskreutz.

Schroeder's decision on Monday was part of a broader hearing laying out the ground rules of Rittenhouse's trial, which is set to begin on November 1.

Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger had argued in a recent motion that Rittenhouse's lawyers should be banned from using the terms, since prosecutors will be banned from referring to the dead or injured men as "victims."

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But Schroeder disagreed, saying the two scenarios were not the same. It's common for judges across the country to ban the word "victim" during trials, because it implies that a crime was committed and could therefore prejudice a jury against a defendant.

But since Rosenbaum, Huber, and Grosskreutz are not the ones on trial, Rittenhouse's defense team is free to describe them as "rioters," "looters," or "arsonists" so long as they provide evidence that the men were rioting, looting, or committing arson, Schroeder said.

Grosskreutz, the only survivor, has not been charged with rioting, looting, arson, or any other crime in connection to the Kenosha protests.

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"He can demonize him if he wants, if he thinks he'll score points with the jury," Schroeder told prosecutors, referring to Rittenhouse's defense lawyer.

He added that prosecutors are similarly free to use their own harsh terms to describe Rittenhouse, such as "cold-blooded killer," so long as they back up those terms with evidence.

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