The Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial took an interesting turn this week. When a judge excludes a certain line of questioning from a criminal case, neither side can ask questions that would put a witness in the position of answering that question. In this case, the judge excluded evidence that Rittenhouse was going to the protest to defend property. The prosecution had Rittenhouse on the ropes when they broached that line of questioning. Before Rittenhouse could answer through tearful sobs, the judge shut down the proceedings, rebuked the prosecutor, and sent the jury out of the room.
The defense’s objection raised the point that the trial was not going well for the prosecution. By asking questions that had been specifically prohibited by the judge, the prosecution (the defense claimed) was attempting to cause a mistrial that would have allowed the prosecution to start all over again, perhaps with a better theory of what happened and stronger supporting evidence that could be made. The defense then also moved for a mistrial with prejudice. That would have meant that the trial could not have ever been retried by the prosecution and Rittenhouse would be presumed innocent of the charges for the remainder of his life.
Understanding What is Happening
If a judge orders an attorney not to broach a specific topic, it is because the court has ruled that the topic is more prejudicial than probative. That means it has a higher likelihood of biasing the jury against the defendant than it reveals about whether or not a crime was committed. The judge ruled that the prosecution’s case would have to stand on whether or not Rittenhouse was justified in firing his weapon that day. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a reasonable person would not have discharged their weapon.
This is a major boon for the defense. The prosecution wanted to be able to argue that Rittenhouse decided to go to the riot looking for a fight. Rittenhouse’s own words were that he was there to “defend property.” The prosecution asked him whether or not defending property requires lethal force. That is when shenanigans were called and the case ground to an abrupt halt.
The judge has yet to rule on a mistrial, but no matter what happens with that decision, the prosecution’s case is in serious jeopardy. They have yet to provide compelling evidence that Rittenhouse acted with intentional untriggered malice. Instead, they’ve provided evidence that one guy was trying to take away Rittenhouse’s gun when he pulled the trigger and the other guy was trying to hit him with a skateboard. In other words, they have managed to prove his case for him.
When the prosecution attempted to tell the judge that he was acting in good faith, the judge clearly did not believe him and told him as much.
Regardless of what happens with the decision for a mistrial, the judge may not be inclined to allow the prosecution to benefit from breaking clear rules. If a mistrial is declared, the judge may decide to allow Rittenhouse to walk based on the fact that the trial is not going well for the prosecution and they used a really underhanded tactic to attempt to manipulate circumstances in their favor.
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David Freidberg represents the interests of those charged with crimes in the Chicago area. Call today at (312) 560-7100 to schedule an appointment and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.