Two men shot and killed by Kyle Rittenhouse during street protests cannot be described as "victims" in Rittenhouse's murder trial because the term is "loaded," a Wisconsin judge ruled Monday.
Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber were killed and Gaige Grosskreutz injured by Rittenhouse, then 17, during demonstrations against police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year. Defense attorneys maintain the teen acted in self-defense.
Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder said lawyers can refer to the two men as "rioters," "looters" and "arsonists" in closing arguments, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
"The word 'victim' is a loaded, loaded word," Schroeder said, the Post reported. "'Alleged victim' is a cousin to it."
The judge advised Rittenhouse's team against use of pejorative terms to describe the three men shot, but also said such terms can be used in their closing arguments if evidence shows the men participated in criminal acts, the Post reported.
Schroeder said defense attorney Mark Richards could "demonize them if he wants, if he thinks it will win points with the jury," according to the Chicago Tribune.
"If more than one of them were engaged in arson, rioting, looting, I’m not going to tell the defense you can’t call them that," the judge said, the Post reported.
Rittenhouse, from Antioch, Ill., allegedly crossed state lines with an AR-15-style rifle amid turmoil sparked by the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by Rusten Sheskey, a white police officer.
The Post said Rittenhouse was among a group of armed men who had committed to patrolling Kenosha amid the chaos.
Schroeder laid out final ground rules for Rittenhouse’s trial, which is set to begin Monday.
Rittenhouse, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, faces homicide charges in the deaths of Rosenbaum, 36, and Huber, 26, and an attempted homicide charge for shooting Grosskreutz, 27.
On Oct. 5, the judge refused to dismiss a weapons charge against Rittenhouse. Defense attorneys had argued their client fired in self-defense after Rosenbaum, Huber, and Grosskreutz attacked him, and had asked Schroeder to dismiss the weapon possession charge.
On Sept. 17, Schroeder ruled that prosecutors can't argue that Rittenhouse is affiliated with the Proud Boys or that he beat up a woman months before the shootings. Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger had asked to argue at trial that the defendant subscribed to the white supremacist philosophies and violent tactics.
Grosskreutz, the lone survivor of the shooting, has not been charged with a crime from that night.
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