By Nathan Layne
KENOSHA, Wis. (Reuters) -A critical witness in the murder trial of U.S. teenager Kyle Rittenhouse said on Thursday that one of the three men shot during protests in Wisconsin last year cursed and lunged for the defendant’s military-style rifle before he fired.
The testimony from Richie McGinniss, a journalist who was recording video in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 25, 2020, when the shootings took place, could help bolster the defense’s argument that Rittenhouse, then 17, feared for his life.
Rittenhouse, 18, a resident of Antioch, Illinois, is charged with reckless and intentional homicides in the killing of Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and attempted homicide for wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, now 27, with a bullet to the arm.
McGinniss – chief video director of the Daily Caller, a conservative website – said Rosenbaum yelled “Fuck you!” as he advanced toward Rittenhouse in the parking lot of a used car dealership and then lunged for his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
McGinniss re-enacted the scene, crouching and lunging forward with both arms. “It was like he was grabbing for the front portion of it,” he said.
McGinnis has been seen as a crucial witness for both the prosecution, which is trying to show that Rittenhouse used his weapon without justification, and the defense, which is trying to establish that the teenager fired at Rosenbaum in self-defense.
Rittenhouse, who was pointing his rifle at a 45-degree angle toward the ground, moved his weapon to his left in an effort to avoid Rosenbaum’s grasp before firing, McGinnis said.
Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger then asked if that meant Rosenbaum was no longer a threat.
McGinnis said the two were still “extremely close” to each other and it wasn’t clear to him “what would have happened if those shots hadn’t been fired”.
Earlier on Thursday, the judge dismissed a juror because he told a joke about the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man whose wounding by a policeman sparked protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year.
“The public needs to be confident that this is a fair trial,” Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder told the juror, an older white man who declined to repeat the joke he told to a sheriff’s deputy outside the courtroom this week.
“It had nothing to do with the case,” the man told the judge.
It was “bad judgment to tell a joke of that nature,” Schroeder said, adding that he had no choice but to remove the man from the jury. The man then left the courtroom.
Blake was shot several times in the back, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Prosecutors cleared the policeman of any wrongdoing, saying he acted in self-defense. Blake has sued him.
The shootings Rittenhouse is charged with occurred amid the chaos that erupted in Kenosha after Blake’s shooting. Rittenhouse says he acted in self-defense.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Kenosha, WisconsinEditing by Ross Colvin, Rosalba O’Brien and Jonathan Oatis)
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