Monday, March 4, 2024
Monday, March 4, 2024

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Rittenhouse Trial: Autopsy Photos Back Up Defense; State Rests


After the medical examiner’s testimony, the state rested its case without a coherent theory to counter self-defense. The 7th count, a curfew violation citation, was dismissed by the judge.

Joseph Rosenbaum’s hand was either very close or in contact with Kyle Rittenhouse’s rifle when Rittenhouse shot him, a medical examiner testified in court, strengthening the defense argument that Rosenbaum was lunging for Rittenhouse’s gun.

Dr. Douglas Kelley also testified that Rosenbaum had “forward momentum” that wasn’t from the first shot, which was to the hip, as his body moved closer to Rittenhouse. The hand shot was the second wound.

The defense attorney, Mark Richards, asked Kelley, “That hand was over the barrel of Mr. Rittenhouse’s gun when his hand was shot?” Kelley responded, “That makes sense.”

All of this happened when Rosenbaum was in very close proximity to Rittenhouse (and closer for the second than the first shot) in less than a second. According to Kelley, Rittenhouse was no more than four feet away from Rosenbaum when he first fired, hitting him in the hip; he may have even been closer. He was closer yet for the hand shot.

This all backs up the defense claims that Rosenbaum posed a threat to Rittenhouse at the time Rittenhouse fired and its consistent with him lunging. Anthony Huber’s autopsy photos were also played in court. They were very graphic. But the testimony also was consistent with the state’s case.

The testimony came from the final state’s witness but he didn’t do the prosecution any favors. Kelley and attorneys in the case dramatically demonstrated the trajectory of Rosenbaum’s wounds, with an attorney and detective at times using a rifle to do it. They also showed graphic autopsy photos in court.

Rittenhouse is on trial for the shooting deaths of Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, as well as the wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz. Rosenbaum’s death is key because it was the first, igniting the chain of events during a night of rioting.

The Rosenbaum hand shot was the second of four; Kelley testified that the first gunshot struck Rosenbaum in the hip. He also testified, though, that Rosenbaum’s momentum was moving forward already, and that he wasn’t propelled forward by the hip shot. He was then shot in the hand. Kelley couldn’t tell the order of the third and fourth shots – to the head and back – but he testified that Rosenbaum was in a horizontal position when they were fired, describing it as sort of a Superman move with hands extended forward. He made it clear that Rosenbaum did NOT have his back turned to Rittenhouse when the back wound occurred and that it wasn’t the first wound.

The state then rested after a week and 1.5 days of witness-after-witness and video-after-video that strengthened Rittenhouse’s claim of self-defense.

Kelley’s testimony is also consistent with the eyewitness testimony of Richie McGinniss, who scored points for the defense when he testified previously that Rosenbaum was lunging for Rittenhouse’s gun and trying to get it when he was shot. McGinniss testified Rosenbaum either made grazing contact with the gun or got close to it, but he couldn’t tell which.

Why this matters: The defense is arguing that Rosenbaum tried to disarm Rittenhouse and posed a threat. Under self-defense laws, Rittenhouse must show he reasonably believed his life or that of another were in danger or that they could face imminent great bodily harm. If he can do that, he will be acquitted due to self-defense.

Even if Rosenbaum didn’t literally touch the gun, of course, it doesn’t wreck the self-defense claim because Rosenbaum could still be a threat. The fact he was chasing Rittenhouse, got so close and that evidence indicates he was lunging can establish that. Video shows Rosenbaum was chasing Rittenhouse, and McGinniss testified that Rosenbaum, who was acting violent, belligerent and agitated that night, including using a racial slur, cornered Rittenhouse into a “dead end.”

Kelley, as with other witnesses who hurt the prosecution’s case previously, was actually a prosecution witness. However, as with the other witnesses, he helped build the case for self-defense instead. Nowhere was that more true than when it came to his testimony about Joseph Rosenbaum’s hand.

Joseph Rosenbaum Autopsy

The closeness of a gun to a body part can be determined by soot.

“This is a close-range wound with soot,” Kelley testified of the wound to Rosenbaum’s hand. “Whether it’s in contact or whether it’s just in front of the entrance portion to the wound or inches away, that’s not something I can tell you.”

The prosecution asked if it was possible that, after Rosenbaum was shot in the hip, he might have fallen for and reached for the gun to swipe it away.

Kelley said that the scenario was possible. He said Rosenbaum continued down in a horizontal position. The shot to the back and head occurred when he was more horizontal to the ground.

But then defense attorney Mark Richards said, “When you’re shot the first time, it doesn’t cause you to go forward?”

“No,” Kelley said, agreeing it doesn’t.

Richards asked Kelley whether Rosenbaum was already in “forward momentum” to go from the 1st shot to the second in a fraction of a second.

“Yes, he had forward momentum,” said Kelley.

Richards and Kelley explained that soot is found in a wound when the gun is a few inches away or very close to the body. The soot is within inches. Stippling is within four feet.

“It was either very close or in contact; we’re talking about the hand,” Richards said.

“Yes, it can be within that range; it could have been contact,” responded Kelley.

On the back wound, Kelley made it clear:

“We’re not saying he was turned and shot in the back correct?” asked Richards. “That’s correct,” said Kelley.

Richards asked Kelley whether the “position of lunging would put you in a horizontal position,” and Kelley said, “Correct.”

The second to the fourth shot occurred in less than a second.

He said the head wound “would be” consistent with the defense attorney, in Richards’ words, “turning like a bull and diving.”

Anthony Huber Autopsy

The medical examiner testified that Anthony Huber died from a gunshot wound to the chest. Defense attorney Mark Richards asked whether, per what’s captured on video, Huber “pulls the firearm from one direction and into his chest?”

“They end up in that position. I don’t know if he’s pulling,” Kelley said.

His testimony on Huber only bolstered the defense argument – backed up with video and photo earlier in the trial – that showed Huber got a hand on Rittenhouse’s gun right before he was shot. Huber also hit Rittenhouse with a skateboard and was rushing him, video shows.

Rittenhouse trial autopsy photos

“Huber grabs the firearm?” Richards asked.

“It appears so, yes,” said Kelley.

“When Huber strikes him with the skateboard, the gun is not in his chest?” asked Richards, establishing that Rittenhouse didn’t shoot until he was struck (a strong argument for self-defense).

“That’s a fair statement,” said Kelley.

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Trump Thwarts Haley in Her Native South Carolina, Rolls on to Michigan

Sweeping a fourth consecutive primary by a significant margin, former President Donald Trump left South Carolina victorious on Saturday and on a roll heading into Michigan on Tuesday.

Nikki Haley, two-term governor of South Carolina and a former United Nations ambassador in Trump’s administration, was overwhelmed in unofficial very early vote count totals. The race was called minutes after the closing of polls at 7 p.m. Eastern.

South Carolinians, who do not register by party and could choose to vote in either but not both primaries, in early voting exceeded the more than 131,000 votes cast – about 4% – in the Democratic primary on Feb. 3 when 96% chose President Joe Biden.

South Carolina has about 3.3 million registered voters and gets nine of the 538 Electoral College votes in November's general election.

At stake in the South’s first Republican primary were 50 delegates at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on July 15-18. Twenty-nine went to Trump as the statewide winner; three delegates each go to winners in the seven congressional districts, respectively. Those results were still pending at time of publication, though Trump was projected to up his total to 44 of the state's 50.

"I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as it is right now," Trump said in a victory speech that began minutes after the polls closed. "You can celebrate for about 15 minutes, but then we have to get back to work."

The nation’s 45th president added to previous caucuses and primary wins in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, the first non-incumbent GOP candidate to open with such a sweep since 1976's primary and caucuses calendar change. Since 1980, only Newt Gingrich in 2012 won South Carolina's Republican primary without reaching the national ticket.

In a social media post in the final hour before polls closed, Haley wrote, "Filled with gratitude today. Getting to vote with my mom and my kids at my side is a memory I’ll cherish forever."

Immigration, inflation, energy, an America-first foreign policy and revenge from the 2020 loss to Biden have been hallmarks of the 77-year-old Trump’s campaign.

“No country could sustain what is happening to the United States of America,” Trump, during his victory speech, said of the ongoing situation at the U.S. border with Mexico. “Right now, our country is a laughing stock all over the world. Our country is going to be respected again, respected like never before.”

On the campaign trail in Rock Hill on Friday, Trump said Haley was staying in the race to help Democrats. The flip side is Haley’s supporters see Trump and his 91 criminal charges as the GOP choice that Democrats would want to face their candidate.

Trump also served up comments on race – sparking partisan critiques – when speaking to a friendly crowd at the Black Conservative Federation Gala in Columbia later in the evening.

Haley, 52, was in Greenville on Tuesday saying she’s campaigning to save the country, led by the topics of education, economy, immigration, homicides, fentanyl and foreign policy. She voted in Kiawah Island on Saturday morning, having spent Friday in Moncks Corner among other stops.

Haley says Trump brings chaos and will be unelectable in the general election, though national polls including The Center Square Voters’ Voice Poll disagree. In a Marquette Law School national poll released Wednesday, proposed 1-on-1 races have Haley defeating Biden 58%-42% and Trump beating Biden 51%-49%.

Prior to Saturday, Real Clear Politics' polling average showed Trump ahead of Haley 63%-32% in South Carolina. Nationally, the advantage climbs to 75%-17%.

While Haley has tirelessly been asked about stepping out of the race, campaign manager Betsy Ankney on Friday confirmed a “seven-figure” ad buy for Super Tuesday states. The March 5 primary schedule includes 15 Republican and 14 Democratic primaries.

(This is a developing story and will be updated.)

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Wisconsin GOP Congressmen: Evers Drew Congressional Maps He Wants Struck Down

(The Center Square) – Some of Wisconsin’s Republican congressmen say there is a problem with Gov. Tony Evers’ latest problems with the state’s political maps.

Evers this week asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take a look at the state’s congressional maps.

"MONDAY: I signed fair maps for Wisconsin’s Legislature," Evers tweeted Wednesday. "NEXT UP: fair maps for our congressional districts."

The liberal law firm The Elias Group has already asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reconsider the state’s congressional maps, just like the court reconsidered the state’s legislative maps.

The high court tossed those state maps back in December. But Wisconsin lawmakers ended the court’s review and replacement by passing Evers’ preferred maps for Assembly and Senate districts.

Western Wisconsin Republican Congressman Derrick Van Orden on Wednesday pointed out the Congressional maps are also Evers’ own.

“The maps are a 100% product of the Dems,” Van Orden said in a tweet. “Evers drew them. Zero Republicans voted for them. Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled them constitutional. US Supreme Court ruled them constitutional. This is a naked power Dem grab.”

WOW County Republican Congressman Scott Fitzgerald said the same thing.

“I’d like to remind @GovEvers that he is asking the State Supreme Court to review the Congressional maps HE drew,” Fitzgerald said in a tweet. “The map he is now seeking to overturn was drafted by Evers and based off a 2011 bipartisan map, approved by the liberals on the state Supreme Court and survived a challenge all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Evers said reviewing the Congressional maps is part of his effort to “do the right thing.”

"We want to end gerrymandering in Wisconsin at every level, so I’m asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to review our congressional maps to make sure those are fair, too."

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has not yet said what it plans to do with the challenge to the congressional maps.

school choice policies

Wisconsin Assembly Approves Plan to Splits Choice School Funding From Public Schools

(The Center Square) – Wisconsin is considering a massive shift in how public and choice schools get their money.

The Wisconsin Assembly approved the plan to decouple the Racine and statewide school voucher programs, replacing the local property tax money that currently pays for those programs with state dollars.

“Currently, legacy charter schools are completely funded by [general purpose revenues]. The Milwaukee Choice program will be funded completely by GPR by 2025,” Rep. Ellen Schutt, R-Clinton, said. “What this bill does, is says that new independent charter schools, and the rest of the choice program should also be funded by GPR and not by aid-reductions from the local school district.”

That would shift millions of dollars for choice schools in Wisconsin from local school districts to the state.

It would also mean a steadier and more reliable stream of dollars for choice schools.

“Decoupling resolves an issue that involves how the current funding mechanism affect public schools and property taxes. This has been a sore spot that creates unnecessary tension between public and private schools,” School Choice Wisconsin President Nic Kelly told The Center Square. “Decoupling is good tax policy that was already enacted for Milwaukee years ago. We want the rest of the state to be treated the same way.”

Decoupling would mean a boost for public schools. Schutt’s legislation would give public schools a one-time, 25% revenue limit increase. The legislature says that will cost as much as $351 million for the next school year.

Some public schools could end up losing money in general state aid, but the decouple legislation would hold them harmless.

“This bill will really help our public schools when they're setting their budgets every year, giving them some idea about how much money they truly will have,” Schutt added. “It will fix the confusion that is currently out there with the way we fund choice and charter, because it's different based on the type of school it is. We had some administrators come down to testify and say that this was really a great idea, and actually Gov. [Tony] Evers supported this idea when he was the superintendent back in 2015.”

Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, however said during debate on the plan that Evers’ office no longer wants to talk about decoupling.

The proposal next heads to the Wisconsin Senate.

Tyler August milwaukee drop boxes

Assembly Majority Leader Puts Responsibility on Milwaukee to Restore Faith in Vote Count

(The Center Square) – The number-two in the Wisconsin Assembly says if lawmakers can’t come to terms on an early count law, it is up to Milwaukee to restore the voters’ faith in their election operation.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said he doesn’t have the votes to pass Monday Count legislation. It would allow Milwaukee to count ballots the day before election day in order to avoid an after-midnight vote dump.

Assembly Majority Leader Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, said Republicans in the Senate should vote on the plan. If they don't, August said, then Milwaukee’s election managers need to act.

“It's incumbent upon the city of Milwaukee to get their act together and count those ballots during the day and have that done so that there isn't constantly this question about the processes in the city of Milwaukee,” August said.

Milwaukee uses a central count location, and election managers in the city say that slows down the counting of absentee ballots. Many times, that leaves a lull between when the votes from election day are tallied, and when the absentee vote count is delivered.

Critics say that lull, and the after-midnight ballot drop, leads to questions about election integrity in Milwaukee.

“People feel like the election is heading in one direction, [then] all the ballots come in at one time in the middle of the night, and it appears that there's some kind of nefarious nature to what's going on,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Tuesday.

Critics of the Monday Count plan also see room for something nefarious. They fear that if Milwaukee has an absentee ballot count ahead of election day, then someone can somehow manufacture an exact number of votes to win.

August said other communities in Wisconsin don’t have the same troubles as Milwaukee and said that’s part of the problem.

“When I go to vote in the city of Lake Geneva they are processing those absentee ballots, there are hundreds of them in Lake Geneva, as well as a smaller staff, less election workers than in the city of Milwaukee has, and they're able to get those done and part of their report that they send into the county clerk by like 9 p.m.,” August said. “So, Milwaukee needs to take a look at what they're doing when it comes to counting absentee ballots, and for their own sake to prove to the people that their processes are secure, and safe, and fair. And get those reports in well before the middle of the night.”

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Denver Schools Facing ‘Unprecedented Challenge’ With Influx of Migrant Students

Denver’s public school system has been taking in as many as 250 new students a week since the new year, which it attributes to the increase in the number of migrants arriving in the city.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero called the situation an “unprecedented challenge” in a message to the community posted on the district’s website. The district said the influx of new students will cost an additional $837,000 “to support additional needs across the system.”

From July 1, 2023 to January 2024, there were 3,221 new-to-country students with more than 1,300 coming to Denver schools since Oct. 1, 2023, the district stated.

The district is hiring more staff to deal with the increase in students and focusing on hiring people who are bilingual, according to the superintendent.

“The pace of new arrivals has remained steady since the start of 2024, with roughly 200-250 students joining us each week,” a report to the school board stated last week.

On Feb. 5, the city of Denver started enforcing 42-day limits on migrants living in city-owned shelters.

“We are watching enrollment data closely over the next few weeks to see if/how our student population moves in response,” the report stated.

The school district provides a phone number to call “to speak to someone in your language.”

The district has struggled with dwindling enrollment since the pandemic. Enrollment reached 93,800 in the 2019-20 school year and then fell to 90,300 in the 2020-2021 pandemic year. In 2021-22, enrollment stayed about the same at 90,250 and then dropped to 89,200 in 2022-23.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been sending migrants from Texas to sanctuary cities across the U.S. On Feb. 12, Abbott posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that Texas has bused more than 16,200 migrants to Denver.

"Texas will not stop until President Biden secures the border," Abbott stated on X.

Denver Public Schools did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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Wisconsin Assembly Eyes Limits on Governor’s Veto Powers

(The Center Square) – Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly are taking the first step to reign in some of the governor’s veto power.

Lawmakers on Tuesday took up Assembly Joint Resolution 112, which would change the Wisconsin Constitution to stop the governor from raising a tax or a fee on his own.

“Wisconsin's unique partial veto is considered one of the most powerful policy tools in the country,” Rep. Amanda Nedweski, R-Pleasant Prairie, told reporters. “From Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson's infamous Vanna White veto, to Democrat Gov. Tony Evers 402-year tax increase, we have seen abuse of the partial veto addressed with proposed constitutional amendments by legislatures nearly 30 times in the last century.”

Nedweski said this proposed constitutional amendment would apply to Evers specifically, but would apply to all future governor’s as well by banning the governor from single handedly increasing taxes or creating fees.

“The will of the people is the law of the land, not the will of the governor,” Nedweski added. “This would appropriately rebalance power between the executive and the legislature, and further restrict the executive from completely rewriting the law. The governor is not a legislator, and the partial veto was not intended to give the governor legislative power.”

Tuesday's vote was the first vote for the plan. It would need to pass the legislature again next year before it would go to the voters, likely next spring.

“We very narrowly crafted this legislation to address the specific situations that we believe members of the public would find the most egregious, the ability for a single person to increase taxes or fees on the people of Wisconsin with the single stroke of a pen,” Nedweski said. “The people should not be subjected to political trickery that does not reflect their will as represented by their legislators.”

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