They will consider first-degree reckless homicide—punishable by up to 60 years in prison—along with two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety while using a dangerous weapon, first-degree intentional homicide while using a dangerous weapon—which carries a mandatory life sentence—and attempted first-degree intentional homicide while using a dangerous weapon.
On Thursday morning, Judge Bruce Schroeder confirmed no members of the jury will be sequestered “at this particular point,” thanking the members as they left the courtroom to decide Rittenhouse’s fate.
“Members of the jury, it is for you to determine whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty of each of the offenses charged,” he told them. “You must make a finding to each count in the information.”
On Monday, the judge dismissed a misdemeanor weapons possession charge, arguing that the statute was confusing. Prosecutors conceded that the weapon was not short-barrelled before it was dismissed.
There has been no dispute in the case over whether Rittenhouse committed the shootings. However, the jury will have to decide whether Rittenhouse, who claimed he acted in self-defense, was justified in the shootings.
Schroeder also dismissed a charge of failure to comply with an emergency curfew order amid nights of violent demonstrations, riots, and arson attacks throughout Kenosha in August following the officer-involved shooting of Jacob Blake.
It’s not clear how long the jury will deliberate. The jury could return a verdict as early as Tuesday morning, or they could take days.
During closing arguments, prosecutors argued Rittenhouse provoked an angry mob who witnesses said were destroying property and setting fires. The riots occurred alongside Black Lives Matter demonstrations following the officer-involved shooting of Jacob Blake, who was later found to be armed with a knife, just days earlier in Kenosha.
“You cannot claim self-defense against a danger you create,” Thomas Binger, an assistant district attorney in Kenosha County, told members of the jury. “That’s critical right here. If you’re the one who’s threatening others, you lose the right to claim self-defense.”
But Mark Richards, one of Rittenhouse’s lawyers, responded on Monday by saying his client was afraid for his life after being ambushed and chased by rioters. Rittenhouse had traveled to Kenosha to help protect local businesses during the riots.
“When my client shot Joseph Rosenbaum, he feared for his life. He feared because of his prior threats, prior statements, and the violent acts that had been witnessed by my client,” Richards said. “He came down here trying to help, to see the damage, and that’s what he did,” he added.
Last week, Rittenhouse, who was 17 during the time of the shootings, testified in court. During his cross-examination, he told Binger: “I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself.”
He shot the men because they all posed threats, Rittenhouse said. Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, who was also fatally shot, chased him and tried to grab his gun. A third man, Gaige Grosskreutz, he said, lunged forward and pointed a gun at him.
Authorities also signaled they’re bracing for possible unrest after the verdict. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, last week announced he authorized 500 National Guard troops to be on standby outside Kenosha if they’re needed.