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Jury in Rittenhouse trial begins deliberations

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial began deliberating this morning following yesterday's closing arguments by lawyers on both sides. The prosecution has argued that Rittenhouse was acting as a vigilante when he shot three people, killing two of them at a protest in Kenosha, Wis., last year. The jury will have to decide whether Rittenhouse was actually acting in self-defense. Corrinne Hess with Wisconsin Public Radio is here to tell us what we can expect going forward. She joins us now. Welcome.

CORRINNE HESS, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

CHANG: Thanks for being with us. All right. So the closing arguments - they took all day yesterday. Can you just recap, what were the key messages that each side tried to impart to the jury?

HESS: Well, prosecutors and defense attorneys presented radically different descriptions of Kyle Rittenhouse's actions and motivations on Monday. Prosecutors called him a chaos tourist who recklessly came to Kenosha and cost two lives, while defense attorneys described him as a 17-year-old kid who was out there trying to help his community.

CHANG: And how closely did you find that the closing arguments actually followed the evidence that was presented throughout the trial?

HESS: Very closely. The - both sides kept coming back to the same themes that they presented over the last two weeks. And the trial itself was, at times, very traumatic. There was dramatic testimony that featured extensive footage of the shootings. Kyle Rittenhouse himself took the stand last week, and he tearfully insisted that he had fired only to defend himself. Prosecutors have argued that Rittenhouse committed murder, pointing to the fact that while there was unrest on the streets of Kenosha, he was the only person that killed anyone.

At the same time, this trial has been marked by combative exchanges by the judge, Bruce Schroeder, and the lead prosecutor, Thomas Binger. Many of these judge's rulings have appeared to favor the defense. Even before the trial began, Judge Schroeder decided that throughout the case, the three men shot by Kyle Rittenhouse could not be referred to as victims, but he did in the same ruling say that these men could be called rioters and looters and arsonists by the defense.

CHANG: Well, can we talk a little bit about the jury now? I mean, the case is now in their hands. The jury pool was 18 people. It's now down to, of course, 12. Who's on this jury. Like, just tell us about the makeup.

HESS: So this morning, Kyle Rittenhouse himself used this old-fashioned wooden tumbler, and he pulled six juror numbers. All throughout, there's been 18 people who have been watching this case, and it got whittled down to 12. So these 12 people are now going to decide his fate. The remaining jurors are seven white women and four white men. One of the men appears to be Hispanic.

CHANG: And just, you know, because the verdict could be any day now, do you have a sense of how Kenosha is preparing for this verdict?

HESS: Throughout the trial, it's been fairly quiet. Outside of the courthouse today, there's about two dozen protesters outside who are both supporters of Kyle Rittenhouse and supporters of the victims. Last week, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announced that 500 National Guard service members are prepared to assist local law enforcement in the event that unrest follows a verdict. Those National Guard members are staying at a hotel about an hour away from here. Local law enforcement, though, has made an announcement this morning that they're not planning to shut down any roads.

CHANG: So do we have any sense of how long the jury might deliberate? Do we think that this is going to be a quick verdict?

HESS: Unfortunately, we don't have any idea how long the jury will deliberate. The judge did tell us today that we will be given a heads up, and everyone will be told at least an hour in advance before the verdict comes back.

CHANG: That is Corrinne Hess with Wisconsin Public Radio. Thank you so much, Corrinne.

HESS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.