Lawyers have begun their opening arguments in the high-profile trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old charged with homicide for killing two protesters in Kenosha, Wis., last year.
Last August, violent unrest exploded in Kenosha after a white police officer shot a Black man named Jacob Blake, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Thousands of demonstrators turned out to protest police brutality, and some destroyed police cars, damaged businesses and burned down several buildings.
On the third night, Rittenhouse, then 17, drove from his home in Illinois across the state line into Wisconsin, armed with an AR-15-style rifle.
There, in a set of chaotic encounters with demonstrators, Rittenhouse shot and killed Anthony Huber, 26, and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and injured Gaige Grosskreutz. His lawyers argue that he acted in self-defense.
Rittenhouse faces felony charges of first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree recklessly endangering safety, along with a pair of lesser charges for possessing a gun as a minor and failure to comply with curfew that night.
Jury selection began Monday and took just one day.
Of the 150 or so potential jurors that had been called to the courthouse for selection, not one raised their hand when the judge asked if there was anyone in the pool who had not heard of the Rittenhouse case. Many were dismissed when they said they had already made up their minds.
The jury is composed of 11 women and 9 men.
Judge Bruce Schroeder instructed them to avoid news coverage and talking with anybody about the case during the trial, which is expected to last two weeks.
Schroeder, 75, has served as a judge in Kenosha County for nearly 40 years. He is the longest-serving judge in the state. His decisions in the case have already drawn national attention — in particular his move to bar prosecutors from referring to those Rittenhouse killed as “victims,” while allowing defense lawyers to refer to them as “looters” and “arsonists.”