IL teen accused of killing 2 at Kenosha protest makes 1st in-person court appearance

ByChuck Goudie, Jessica D'Onofrio, and Ross Weidner, Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel WLS logo
Saturday, May 22, 2021
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KENOSHA, Wis. (WLS) -- Illinois teenager Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused of killing two people during last summer's protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, made his first in-person court appearance in Kenosha County Friday.

Rittenhouse, who's now 18, faces multiple counts, including murder, tied to the unrest that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.

The target date for Kyle Rittenhouse to go on trial in Kenosha County is November first.

Even though Rittenhouse is free on a $2 million all-cash bond, there are still many security concerns surrounding him and the case; the teenager was brought in through a special non-public entrance for Friday's hearing.

In court and outside extra sheriff's deputies were on guard in the double murder case where the accused shooter has become an icon for gun rights advocates.

Last summer Rittenhouse, then 17, was part of a citizens patrol during chaotic protests after a police shooting. Rittenhouse and his attorneys said he went to Kenosha to protect businesses.

On video, the teenager is seen opening fire with an assault-style rifle, killing two protesters and critically wounding a third.

RELATED: Videos show Kyle Rittenhouse questioned by Antioch police hours after deadly Kenosha protest shootings

He claims self-defense.

Both sides Friday agree that questionnaires will be sent to prospective jurors to weed out those who are biased.

"We're going to need to build in time for those to be sent out and returned by the jurors and time for the parties to be able to analyze them before jury selection," said Thomas Binger, Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney.

RELATED: Antioch teen Kyle Rittenhouse charged with murder, attempted murder for deadly shooting at Kenosha protest

Because of COVID-19 protocols, Rittenhouse had made all of his previous court appearances via video from his attorney's office. Those restrictions have now been lifted.

ABC7 legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Gil Soffer said that that tactic was seen in the recent George Floyd case.

"We got a flavor of this in the Derek Chauvin trial. It's a high-profile case involving an incredibly serious offense in the face of a social justice movement," Soffer said. "These are really hot button issues, and so there's gonna be a lot of attention paid to -- who is this jury, how are they selected, [and] how can you get an unbiased jury."

Rittenhouse is free after political conservatives raised the $2 million cash bail.

Actor Ricky Schroder and My Pillow Executive Mike Lindell are among major donors thanked by Rittenhouse attorneys.

"A $2 million bond is not intended to be satisfied. It's so high, only the super-wealthy can afford it. And the fact is, Rittenhouse couldn't afford it. It wasn't all of his money and that's the only reason he was able to satisfy it -- people donating to the cause," said Soffer.

Although the periphery of this Rittenhouse case is creating complications, the actual case is a simple question of self-defense according to Soffer. If the trial begins in November, or whenever it happens, it's only expected to take two weeks.

If convicted, 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse faces life in prison.