By Nathan Layne
KENOSHA, Wis. (Reuters) – A Wisconsin judge in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse on Monday dismissed a misdemeanor charge against the teenager for illegally possessing the AR-15-style rifle he used to shoot three people, killing two, in what he says was self-defense.
In dismissing the charge, Judge Bruce Schroeder said the law on possession was unclear. Rittenhouse was 17 at the time of the shootings.
Prosecution and defense were due to deliver closing speeches later on Monday in Rittenhouse’s trial, offering to the jury vastly different conclusions about why the teenager opened fire during protests against the police shooting of a Black man last year and whether it was justified.
The arguments are the lawyers’ last chance to influence a jury after nearly two weeks of testimony that included considerable evidence supporting Rittenhouse’s argument that he was attacked before he fired his rifle, killing two men and wounding a third.
The jury will then begin deliberations and attempt to form a consensus on guilt or innocence in the most closely watched case involving a civilian’s right to self-defense since George Zimmerman was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager, in 2013.
Like Zimmerman, Rittenhouse has emerged as a divisive figure, viewed as heroic by some conservatives who favor expansive gun rights and as a symbol of an out-of-control American gun culture by many on the left.
Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with killing Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and with wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, in the city of Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020. The shootings took place during protests – marred by arson, rioting and looting – that followed the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, who was left paralyzed from the waist down.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Howard Goller)