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Kyle Rittenhouse's attorneys say he fired in self-defense during protests

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To Kenosha, Wis., now where the prosecution has rested in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. He is the 18-year-old charged with killing two men and wounding a third. Defense attorneys say Rittenhouse fired in self-defense during a chaotic night of protests back in the summer of 2020. Those protests followed the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse and the three people he shot are all white. Corrinne Hess of Wisconsin Public Radio has been in court following the case. She's with us now. Hey there.

CORRINNE HESS, BYLINE: Hi, how are you?

KELLY: I am all right. Thank you. So the prosecution - as we said, it rested today. The defense started its case. There's been a little more than a week of testimony so far. Walk us through how it's gone.

HESS: Well, throughout the trial, the prosecution has tried to paint a picture of an inexperienced 17-year-old who set out to protect a local business but later ventured into a crowd of protesters. They've presented hours of cell phone video evidence showing him shooting Joseph Rosenbaum and, moments later, Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz. The prosecution has argued that despite all the chaos that was happening that night, Kyle Rittenhouse was the only person to kill anyone. Meanwhile, the defense is showing these same videos over and over again, but arguing that Rittenhouse was pursued by Joseph Rosenbaum. And later he was killed - after he killed Rosenbaum, he was chased by this angry mob, and he really killed Anthony Huber and shot Grosskreutz in self-defense.

KELLY: All right. OK. Now, jurors got to hear directly from that key witness - right? - Gaige Grosskreutz. He was the lone survivor. He testified yesterday. What did he say?

HESS: Yeah, his testimony was really kind of a key point in all of this. He lost almost his entire right bicep when he was shot. And he told the jury he thought he was going to die. Grosskreutz began following Kyle Rittenhouse after the shooting of Rosenbaum, and he describes a chaotic scene. He watched an unknown man kick Rittenhouse to the ground and kick him in the head, and then he saw Kyle Rittenhouse shoot and kill Anthony Huber. He was armed with a handgun, and he was asked by prosecutors why he didn't shoot Rittenhouse.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GAIGE GROSSKREUTZ: In that moment, I was trying to preserve my own life. But doing so while also taking the life of another is not something that I'm capable or comfortable in doing.

HESS: You know, even despite this, at times during cross-examination, Grosskreutz's testimony seemed to support the defense's claims that Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense. At one point, Rittenhouse's attorney had Grosskreutz say he was pointing his own gun at Rittenhouse before he was shot.

KELLY: And the defense has just started. They officially called their first witnesses today. Any surprises so far? Because they have been making this case all along - that this was self-defense.

HESS: Yeah, they have. So the hardest part to prove self-defense will be with this first man who was killed, Joseph Rosenbaum. And just even today, in the beginning, they've been really trying to make Joseph Rosenbaum out to be the attacker. The jury is going to have to decide who started the fight between Rosenbaum and Rittenhouse. There is not enough DNA evidence collected from Rittenhouse's rifle to know if Rosenbaum was grabbing for it. Today, the medical examiner testified that Rosenbaum died from a gunshot wound to the back, but he did so while falling forward, not running away. So with the other two shootings, there's more videos showing a clearer picture of what happened, but not with this first one

KELLY: That is Wisconsin Public Radio's Corrinne Hess updating us on the trial underway of Kyle Rittenhouse. Thank you, Corrinne.

HESS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.