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Rittenhouse defence lawyers seek mistrial

Defence counsel in the Wisconsin murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse say they will motion for a mistrial because of a dispute with prosecutors over video evidence.

Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with killing Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and attempted homicide in the wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz, 28, during a chaotic night of protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 25, 2020.

At issue is a drone video which shows the shooting of Rosenbaum, who was charging at Rittenhouse when he opened fire.

Rittenhouse’s lawyers have accused the prosecution of withholding a high-definition version of the drone footage until Saturday, after the case was already closed to new evidence.

The video issue was cited as one factor in the motion by the defence on Monday seeking a mistrial with prejudice, meaning Rittenhouse could not be prosecuted again. The judge has not ruled on that motion but the judge did rule on Wednesday that the jury could watch the video.

On Wednesday, defence lawyer Corey Chirafisi said he had consulted with Rittenhouse and would seek a mistrial without prejudice. Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney James Kraus said a “technical incident” did not warrant a mistrial.

“It’s not debatable that it’s not fair what happened,” Chirafisi said.

“We didn’t know there was another version.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the 12-member jury sent a note to Kenosha County Judge Bruce Schroeder asking whether it can view video in its private room or in the courtroom.

Schroeder said the jury would be required to view the evidence in the courtroom, which he would clear of public attendees and the media. After a full day on Monday, the jury has been deliberating for about 11 hours.

The shootings took place in Kenosha during protests – marred by arson, rioting and looting – that followed the police shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, who was left paralysed from the waist down.

Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, has pleaded not guilty and took the stand last week to argue that he only fired his weapon after the men attacked him. He said Rosenbaum, the first person he shot that night, grabbed the barrel of his rifle.

Livestreamed, the Rittenhouse trial has emerged as the most closely watched case involving a civilian’s right to self-defence since George Zimmerman was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in 2013.

Like Zimmerman, Rittenhouse has become a polarising figure, viewed as heroic by some conservatives who favour expansive gun rights and as a symbol of a reckless American gun culture by many on the left.

Kenosha has been on edge during the trial, and a small crowd of demonstrators assembled on the courthouse steps again on Wednesday, some holding signs in support of Rittenhouse and others calling for his conviction.

Outside the courthouse, a man carrying an AR-15-style rifle and a bullhorn was told by Kenosha County Sheriff’s deputies he could not be in the area because it was in close proximity to a school.

The man, who called himself Maserati Mike, got in his black Maserati car and drove away without incident.

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