Kyle Rittenhouse, the first person to be fatally shot in the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, was “irrational and insane,” Rittenhouse’s attorney told jurors in his murder trial.
Joseph Rosenbaum was on medication for bipolar disorder and depression, and he was trying to take Rittenhouse’s rifle, attorney Mark Richards said, suggesting there could have been more bloodshed if Rittenhouse hadn’t acted.
“I’m glad he shot him because if Joseph Rosenbaum gets that gun I can’t believe for a minute that he wouldn’t use it against anyone else,” Richards told the trial of the 18-year-old Illinois man. I said during the debate. For killing Rosenbaum and another person and injuring a third during a chaotic night of protests in August 2020.
To some legal experts and other observers, Richards’ remarks were a smart courtroom tactic and an accurate depiction of the threat faced by Rittenhouse, who says he shot the men in self-defense. But mental health advocates heard something different: an alarming belief that people living with mental illness are gay and need to be killed, and terminology such as “crazy” that they say is derogatory and surrounding mental health issues. Adds to the blur.
Studies have shown that people with bipolar disorder and depression are more likely to hurt themselves than to hurt others, said Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota. NAMI’s work therefore includes training police officers to use de-escalation strategies when dealing with people with mental illness.
“You just haven’t shot anyone, especially someone who is unarmed,” she said.
Jason Lakowski, a former Marine who said he went armed to the Kenosha protest to protect the property, testified during trial that Rosenbaum acted “combatantly” that night and that it seemed “someone to tempt to do something”, but did not appear to pose a serious threat to anyone. Lakowski said he turned his back on Rosenbaum and ignored him.
Ryan Balch, a former Army infantryman who patrolled the streets with Rosenbaum, testified that Rosenbaum was “acting in an overly aggressive and violent manner”, including trying to start fires and throw rocks. Balch said that at one point, he got between Rosenbaum and another man, while Rosenbaum was trying to start the fire and Rosenbaum angrily shouted, “If I hold any of you alone tonight, I’m going to kill you – kill you!” Balch said Rittenhouse was within earshot when threatened.
Rittenhouse did not know about Rosenbaum or his background when he crossed paths to protest the shooting and killing of a black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer. And the jury also shouldn’t have known much about him.
During a pre-trial hearing, defense attorneys said they wanted to present evidence of Rosenbaum’s past, including a 2002 Arizona conviction for sexually abusing a minor. They planned to argue that Rosenbaum, 36, was trying to take on Rittenhouse, then 17. weapons during their encounter because Rosenbaum was not legally allowed to own a gun due to his criminal past. Prosecutors argued that the defense was trying to signal to the jury that Rosenbaum was a bad man who deserved to die.
Judge Bruce Schroeder barred defense attorneys from disclosing sex offense convictions at trial. The jurors also shouldn’t have heard about Rosenbaum’s mental health history, which Schroeder said was not relevant because Rittenhouse didn’t know he shot her.
But the information came to the fore in court when prosecutors asked Rosenbaum’s fiancée, Karian Swart, whether Rosenbaum — whom she said had just been released from the hospital — died on the day she was shot. Took medicine before. Schroeder later ruled that by asking that question, prosecutors opened the door for the defense to ask Swart what the drug was. Under cross-examination, she told jurors that it was for bipolar disorder and depression.
Swart also testified that Rosenbaum had returned from a Milwaukee hospital on the day of the shooting. The jury did not hear that Rosenbaum was in the mental health ward after the suicide attempt.
Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor who is now in private practice and not involved in the Rittenhouse case, believes Rosenbaum’s testimony about mental illness is “very important to the self-defense argument” and therefore unbiased. The game was
Turner said people, including the jury, can agree that mental illness in itself does not make someone violent. But that information, along with Rosenbaum’s actions that night — in the faces of men armed with rifles to chase after Rittenhouse — likely had a “head-of-the-moment” for the jurors.
“This defense reinforces the argument that this is the truth, that is the reality,” Turner said.
Kim Motley, an attorney representing Rosenbaum’s estate, said she understood Richards’ efforts to “vigorously defend” her client. But she said her comments were happy that Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum — among the final words jurors heard before resuming deliberations on Tuesday after a nearly two-week trial — “disgusting” and mental illness. Aggressive to people struggling with
“This test is not about the type of person that Joseph Rosenbaum was,” said the Motley Fool. “This test is about his client, Kyle Rittenhouse.”
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