Hours after prosecutors offered a chance for further retraining to end the trial of a Wisconsin man accused of fatally shooting three people during a rampage in April 2017, the jury began deliberating on the fate of the accused killer.
The jury of eight women and four men heard closing arguments on Thursday and began sending notes to one another. They must decide whether Rittenhouse, 27, shot Scott Rohrer and brothers Jeremy and Jeremy Meeks in a matter of seconds as the all-out assault took place. They had done nothing to warrant it, prosecutors said.
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For the second day in a row, Milwaukee police officers were stationed outside the courtroom to be ready to assist if they need to be called in as needed.
Prosecutors called to the stand the woman who drove Rittenhouse to the Super 8 motel, where he hid his stolen gun.
Kimberly Boodstine said Rittenhouse looked “just dazed” and told her he was getting a haircut and wanted to “get all of the guns back together”. She said he looked “lost, disoriented” but seemed to be “very aware” of himself and his surroundings.
After telling him that his car was broken down, Boodstine said Rittenhouse asked her how to procure a “smart gun” for self-defense, a concept that is part of a bill under consideration in the state legislature. The firearms industry is seeking to set up a working group to seek a compromise in the way permits are issued for rifles, which could allow them to be carried concealed.
Boodstine said she asked him what he could tell her.
“He said, ‘Don’t worry about it. I’m just lost right now.’”
The trial has been closely watched in the US after a similar jury opted last year to acquit an Illinois man accused of a spree of arsons. Jordan Pinto, 20, told jurors that the fires were caused by devil worship, not arson. Pinto was charged with 72 arson counts. His trial in Winnebago County jury deliberated for seven days before acquitting him of six counts of arson and rejecting the other 71.
The Wisconsin trial took place in state district court in Brown Deer, which is served by the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis. West Allis is where Meeks lived. Rittenhouse’s trial was moved to Brown Deer after a request from his lawyers.
The judge, John Vlazny, also heard evidence of Rittenhouse’s prior crimes, including a theft of more than $8,000. They also concluded a videotaped interview that Rittenhouse gave after his arrest, in which he admitted to being “super, super messed up and ‘down’” and talking about “how happy I am”.
Milwaukee county assistant district attorney, Sarah Ball, said that he wasn’t well-equipped to handle his problems and that a forensic psychiatrist who testified agreed.
“We need to reach across the aisle with a case like this,” Ball said. “He’s like a shotgun that’s been loaded with explosives and powerful medication.”
But defense attorney Nathan Colter disagreed, saying his client is “happy” and “neat and nice” and that his lawyer fully vetted his psychological state.
“His mind is very clear in court today,” Colter said.
Rittenhouse was charged with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide for his alleged involvement in the killings. He also faces two counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide in the attacks on his co-defendants.
If found guilty, he could be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty.