An effort by prosecutors at Kyle Rittenhouse's murder trial to portray one of the men he shot as a hero never got off the ground Friday — and one legal expert said they were probably fortunate it didn't.
Rittenhouse, 18, is on trial on several counts including homicide in the August 2020 shootings during street unrest in Kenosha. Among the dead was Anthony Huber, a 26-year-old protester who was seen on bystander video hitting Rittenhouse with a skateboard before he was fatally shot.
Huber's great-aunt, Susan Hughes, was testifying about Huber in a matter-of-fact manner, talking about their relationship, how he ended up at the protest and how he always carried a skateboard.
Then prosecutor James Kraus posed a question: “We’ve seen video here, and you may have seen video as well, that Anthony Huber ran towards Kyle Rittenhouse while Kyle Rittenhouse was armed. Were you surprised, when you heard about that? Were you surprised by his actions?”
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As defense attorney Corey Chirafisi swiftly objected, Kraus posed another: “Had you ever seen Anthony Huber run towards danger?”
Hughes said, “Yes,” before Chirafisi objected again and testimony was stopped.
Without the jurors present, Chirafisi argued that if prosecutors were allowed to present evidence that characterizes Huber as a peaceful man, then the defense would be allowed to bring up evidence from Huber’s past that could paint a different picture.
That included criminal cases involving alleged violence Huber committed against his own family members, with the defense reciting in courtroom a detailed account of those allegations.
“I would normally not move to admit those,” Chirafisi said. “However, if they’re saying that this is a peaceful man... ."
Judge Bruce Schroeder agreed, and Kraus withdrew the line of questioning, effectively ending Hughes' testimony.
Mike Brandt, a Minnesota criminal defense attorney who is not connected to the case, said the judge made the right call and that prosecutors had tread on risky ground. The defense evidence would have left the jury with an image of Huber as “hot-headed.”
“Once you open the door, then it’s kind of like the wild Wild West,” he said.
The issue over who was the “first aggressor” also was debated at length outside the jury's presence.
Prosecutors said that if the defense claims that Huber was the “first aggressor” by attacking Rittenhouse with a skateboard, then the state could use Hughes’ testimony to present their theory that Huber and others were trying to stop an active shooter and had been provoked. “The state, frankly, believes that Mr. Huber is a hero and we can present evidence of conduct to rebut that claim that he is aggressively pursuing Kyle Rittenhouse with no basis," Kraus said.
That argument ultimately went nowhere.