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Rittenhouse defense scores big points for self-defense in Kenosha trial. Oh, wait ...

Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News, Pool via AP, File

With prosecutors like this, who needs defense attorneys? Kyle Rittenhouse shouldn’t go pro se, of course, but as of last night, the prosecutors in his murder trial might need to explain their charging decision — or their witness prep. Witnesses called to remove all doubt of Rittenhouse’s self-defense claim bolstered it instead, to the point that even media outlets like the Associated Press took note yesterday.

The biggest development came when prosecutors tried to claim that Rittenhouse shot Joseph Rosenbaum as he fell. Instead, their own witness testified to the jury that Rosenbaum got shot when he tried to grab Rittenhouse’s rifle after chasing him down the street from the riot. He wasn’t falling so much as “lunging,” the jury heard:

Richie McGinniss, who was recording on a cellphone for the conservative website The Daily Caller, took the stand at Rittenhouse’s murder trial and described watching as Joseph Rosenbaum chased down Rittenhouse in one of the most crucial and disputed moments of the night. It is one of the few moments not clearly captured on video.

“I think it was very clear to me that he was reaching specifically for the weapon,” said McGinniss, who had been called to the stand by the prosecution.

In an attempt to undo some of the damage done by his own witness, prosecutor Thomas Binger said McGinniss’ testimony about what Rosenbaum was intending to do was “complete guesswork.”

“Isn’t it?” he asked.

“Well,” McGinniss replied, “he said, `F—- you.’ And then he reached for the weapon.”

Another witness called by prosecutors testified that a rioter shot a round in the air less than three seconds before Rittenhouse opened fire. The defense planned to use that information to argue that Rittenhouse reasonably thought he was the target of the shot and returned fire:

The defense also has said that a shot fired by someone in the crowd moments before Rittenhouse began shooting made the young man believe he was under attack.

Kenosha Detective Martin Howard testified that video shows that a protester, Joshua Ziminski, had fired the first shot into the air. Howard said he used a stopwatch and timed five or six videos to determine that 2.5 seconds later, Rittenhouse began firing at Rosenbaum. …

The shooting of Rosenbaum set in motion the bloodshed that followed moments later. Rittenhouse shot and killed Anthony Huber, 26, a protester from Silver Lake, Wisconsin, who was seen on bystander video hitting Rittenhouse with a skateboard.

Rittenhouse then wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, a protester from West Allis, Wisconsin, who had a gun in his hand as he stepped toward Rittenhouse.

If prosecutors want to establish a self-defense claim for Rittenhouse, they appear to be doing one hell of a job at it. At least according to media accounts, these testimonies came on direct examination, not on cross-examination by Rittenhouse’s defense attorneys. With the information prosecutors elicited from their own witnesses, one has to wonder why Rittenhouse got charged at all.

If several people chased him down the street after threatening to kill him, caught up with him and tried to grab the rifle, that’s a classic self-defense situation. That’s especially true if one of the assailants was bludgeoning him with a skateboard — a potentially life-threatening situation — and another approached with a pistol in his hand. Some of the circumstances may be hazy, but there’s all sorts of reasonable doubt in play. And that’s just from the prosecutor’s case.

Townhall’s Julio Rosas has been reporting from the trial, thanks to our VIP members. Julio backs up McGinnis’ testimony with his own first-person experiences at the Kenosha riot. He also reports on the testimony of another prosecution witness who testified that Rosenbaum had threatened to kill Rittenhouse prior to the shooting:

Balch explained he had met Rittenhouse the night of the shootings and said in an interview with Richie McGinniss, the chief video editor for the Daily Caller, that his job was to protect Rittenhouse when he set off to treat anyone who was injured during the riot.

Before losing track of Rittenhouse, Balch said when he went to diffuse a situation where Rosenbaum was being confrontational with someone, Rosenbaum said to him with Rittenhouse standing next to him, “If I catch any of you guys alone tonight I’m going to f*cking kill you!”

Balch’s testimony of Rosenbaum being very aggressive to anyone with a weapon is backed up by video I filmed during the interaction at the Ultimate gas station. Towards the end of the verbal confrontations, Rosenbaum shouted, “Shoot me, n*gga! Shoot me, n*gga! Bust on me, n*gga, for real!”

The Washington Free Beacon got video of Balch’s testimony:

With the caveat that self-defense statutes vary from state to state, it certainly seems like the prosecution has established all of the necessary elements. The first person shot had openly threatened to kill Rittenhouse and then later chased him down the street. Rittenhouse attempted to withdraw from the confrontation by running away. Rosenbaum grabbed for the rifle at the same time someone nearby fired a shot. Rosenbaum’s shooting is a pretty clear case of self-defense. The assault by the other two “victims” — bludgeoning and pulling out a firearm immediately after the shooting — would satisfy self-defense requirements generally, or at least present so much reasonable doubt as to obviate any attempt to prosecute.

So why are prosecutors pursuing this case at all? Perhaps they’ll present some evidence that will remove all of the reasonable doubt they’ve managed to establish on their own, but so far it looks like they never had a case at all. And if their case doesn’t get any better, then some questions should be raised as to the motives of prosecutors in charging and trying Rittenhouse at all.