Kyle Rittenhouse trial: Legal expert analyzes case as verdict looms; closing set for Monday

ByMichelle Gallardo and Maher Kawash WLS logo
Monday, November 15, 2021
Gaige Grosskreutz, the man who survived a shooting by Kyle Rittenhouse that left two others dead has filed a secret petition to change his legal name.

KENOSHA, Wis. (WLS) -- The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot three men, two fatally, during unrest that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is nearing an end.

Closing arguments and jury instructions will take place starting Monday at 9 a.m. But with up to five hours allocated for closing, it is unclear whether the jury will even begin deliberating Monday.

Not only will they have to get through closing arguments and jury instructions, but the final jury, meaning those who will actually deliberate, and those who will be selected as alternates, has yet to be determined.

With that much to get through, it is highly unlikely a verdict will be reached Monday.

SEE ALSO | Jacob Blake, Kyle Rittenhouse shooting timeline

While Kenosha has not seen any protests or demonstrations as the trial has gone on, the state isn't taking any chances. Gov. Tony Evers sent in about 500 members of the Wisconsin National Guard for active duty to help local law enforcement.

The defense rested its case Thursday afternoon and after a long weekend, court is set to resume Monday for closing arguments.

The jury will then begin deliberating after listening to two weeks of passionate and emotional testimony.

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Rittenhouse is charged with intentionally killing Anthony Huber, but prosecutors want jurors to also consider a charge similar to manslaughter, and something as low as reckless endangerment.

Kenosha residents shared their thoughts as closing arguments approach.

"I just hope we can all come together," said Tyrone Brooks.

Kaitlyn Knodel raised concerns about her divided community.

SEE ALSO | How did Kyle Rittenhouse do on stand in murder trial? He 'helped himself,' legal experts say

"I just feel like it's been real tense in the city. A real draw between the two. One side wants him locked up, the other side that doesn't want him," said Kaitlyn Knodel.

After closing arguments, names will be drawn to decide which 12 jurors will deliberate and which ones will be dismissed as alternates.

ABC7 Legal Expert Gil Soffer shared his thoughts on Kyle Rittenhouse's trial as the Wisconsin National Guard braces for verdicts in Kenosha.

ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Soffer said while the judge has not committed to giving the jury lesser charges, he likely will.

"It is a sign that the prosecution sees some weaknesses in its case," Soffer said. "They're really giving jurors a chance to reach a compromise verdict... if they can't find the maximum charge, let them go with the lesser charge."

Soffer does not believe the jury will give much thought to the back and forth between prosecutors and the judge that has occurred during the trial.

"Self-defense is the entire case and I think the defense has done a pretty good job of it... they've made a pretty good argument that he believed his life was in danger," Soffer said. "They've made a pretty good argument that he believed his life was in danger and that it was not an unreasonable belief, but the case is really gonna turn on a related point... and that is did he provoke the victims in this case."

If the jury determines Rittenhouse became the aggressor, he will not be able to use the self-defense argument, Soffer said. He added that its possible that the jury will convict Rittenhouse on some counts and acquit him on others.

"That's why the prosecutions brings an array of charges," Soffer said. "Intentional homicide requires intent to kill. Very tough to prove, especially as this case unfolded. Recklessness involves something lesser, involves showing reckless disregard, utter disregard for human life. That is still not easy but still easier to show than intent to kill."

The lowest charge Rittenhouse faces is a misdemeanor for possessing a weapon when he was not entitled to do so.

"This judge is known to be a tough sentencer," Soffer said. "But we've seen him in action and it's hard to predict what he will do or say that he follows a playbook."

Soffer said he is confident a mistrial will not happen. He added that the judge's frustration over the chief prosecutor's questioning of Rittenhouse was mostly just a warning.

SEE ALSO | What charges does Kyle Rittenhouse face? Homicide counts, lesser charges explained

Soffer also gave his thoughts on Rittenhouse's tears while on the stand.

"There's always a risk when you have a defendant crying on the stand, if the jury sees those tears as crocodile tears," Soffer said. "If it's over-the-top and looks like it's being done for show."

But Soffer said Rittenhouse crying "doesn't seem to have come across that way." His best guess, however, is that the jury will not weigh the emotional display too heavily.

"They had a witness or two really giving testimony that was helpful to the defense... that's how the facts shake out," Soffer said. "The prosecution might have looked at charging this differently and brought a lesser set of charges from the outset."

RELATED | Kyle Rittenhouse trial: Murder case thrown into jeopardy by mistrial bid; Rittenhouse testifies

Soffer also said Rittenhouse handled cross-examination well.

"It was a very aggressive move to put him on the stand... It was already clear the prosecution's case was not incredibly powerful but the defense must have made the judgment that Rittenhouse would present well," Soffer said. "He would look young... He would look earnest and I think he did a fairly good job."

SEE ALSO | Wisconsin braces for Kyle Rittenhouse trial outcome with 500 National Guard members

Still, Soffer said closing arguments can be influential. They can help shape a jury's decision on the case, but they're not typically dispositive. The jury usually comes into closing arguments having a good sense of where they're going to come out, Soffer said.

"I would expect the government will hammer home this idea that Rittenhouse came to Wisconsin, where he didn't live... looking for trouble .. put himself in a situation of danger, put others in a situation of danger and provoked what happened to him... and the defense will play the opposite tape," Soffer said.