Kyle Rittenhouse's defense attorney spoke candidly about the trial and the moments leading up to it after his client was acquitted by a jury Friday, at one point addressing whether or not the intense emotions Rittenhouse expressed on the witness stand were genuine.
Addressing questions over the moment Rittenhouse took the stand, Mark Richards noted that "there's been so much talk about whether the tears were genuine."
"All I can say is when we prepared Kyle, and we worked on his testimony, there were things we couldn't talk about in my office because it got too emotional and he couldn't handle it," Richards said. "He's in, you know, counseling for PTSD, so he doesn't sleep at night."
A jury on Friday found Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts in his murder trial connected to the shootings of three people during unrest in Kenosha during the summer of 2020.
The decision came on the fourth day of deliberations as jurors weighed charges against Rittenhouse, aiming to determine whether he was the instigator of a night of bloodshed in Kenosha or a concerned citizen who came under attack while trying to protect property.
As Rittenhouse was acquitted on all counts, he at first stood still and silent.
By the end of the reading of the third count, Rittenhouse began to shake and then, once the fifth not-guilty verdict was read, he appeared to sob and then fall down onto the table.
"To say that we were relieved would be a gross misunderstanding," Defense Attorney Mark Richards said while speaking to media outside his Racine office following the verdict. "Kyle is not here. He's on his way home. He wants to get on with his life. He has a huge sense of relief for what the jury did to him today."
Prosecutor Thomas Binger said that while the state is "disappointed with the verdict, it must be respected."
"We are grateful to the members of the jury for their diligent and thoughtful deliberations," Binger said in a statement. "The Kenosha community has endured much over the past 15 months, and yet we remain resilient and strong. We ask that members of our community continue to express their opinions and feelings about this verdict in a civil and peaceful manner."
Rittenhouse, 18, was on trial for killing two men and wounding a third with a rifle during a turbulent night of protests that erupted in Kenosha in the summer of 2020 after a Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot by a white police officer. Rittenhouse said he acted in self-defense, while the prosecution argued he instigated the bloodshed.
Rittenhouse was 17 when he went to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Illinois, in what he said was an effort to protect property from rioters in the days after Blake was shot.
In a fast-moving series of clashes in the streets, Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, now 28.
Rittenhouse testified that Rosenbaum chased him down and made a grab for his rifle, causing him to fear the weapon was going to be used against him. His account of Rosenbaum’s behavior was largely corroborated by video and some of the prosecution’s own witnesses.
Rittenhouse cried as he described how Rosenbaum chased him. But he mostly kept his composure as he spent hours fielding questions from his attorneys and prosecutors.
While some experts believed Rittenhouse helped himself by testifying in the trial, others questioned if the emotion was real.
Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola Marymount University, said she thought Rittenhouse came off as “quite coached.”
“This is a big credibility call for the jury,” she said. “The jury can either see (Rittenhouse) as a clueless kid or he's trying to evade answering questions. It can hurt him if the jury doesn't think he's sincere."
But others said the tears appeared "human."
“From what I saw, he solidified his defense and showed himself to be very human,” said Phil Turner, a Chicago-based defense attorney and former federal prosecutor. “His crying appeared very genuine. I think the jury got more of a sense of him as a young person. It's always a difficult decision to put someone on the stand . . . but from what I could see of the cross-examination, it was way off-target.”
Richards noted there were questions over whether Rittenhouse would even take the stand in the trial, but said the decision came after the defense used multiple "mock juries."
"We had two different juries - one with him testifying, one without him testifying - it was substantially better when he testified. I mean, to a market degree, and that sealed the deal," he said." But it was constant. If you don't put a client on the stand, you're going to lose period."
While Richards said he was "very happy" with the final outcome, activists called the jury's decision a "sad day."
"The verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case is a travesty and fails to deliver justice on behalf of those who lost their lives as they peacefully assembled to protest against police brutality and violence," the NAACP wrote in a statement. "Rittenhouse's decision to go to Kenosha and provoke protestors was unwarranted. Moreover, the outcome of this case sets a dangerous precedent."