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Kyle Rittenhouse's defense attorney discusses the trial and acquittal

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Acquitted on all counts - Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty today in Kenosha, Wis. He collapsed onto the defense table in the courtroom as the verdict was read. He was facing life in prison for shooting and killing two men and wounding another during racial justice protests that turned violent in August 2020. Rittenhouse said he went to Kenosha to help as a medic and when he fired the shots from his AR-15-style rifle that he was acting in self-defense. His trial attorney, Mark Richards, is now on the line with us.

Welcome.

MARK RICHARDS: Good evening.

CHANG: Good evening. OK, so what do you think was the most important piece of evidence that helped convince jurors that this was indeed self-defense?

RICHARDS: The large amount of video - if it had been just witness statements without any video, the storytellers would have been on the other side. And Kyle would have been vastly outnumbered, and no one would have believed them.

CHANG: And describe some of those images that were available in the video.

RICHARDS: The first instance, there was probably four different cellphones that were filming. There was a government drone down the street, which was filming. There was an FBI fixed-wing aircraft taking infrared movies. And through that, we were able to tell a story of Mr. Rosenbaum chasing my client down after he had made threats to kill him. And he chased my client into a corner. My client was hemmed in by the corner and demonstrators - not demonstrators, rioters. They were destroying cars in a parking lot. Kyle stopped. Mr. Rosenbaum kept advancing, and my client shot him four times in three-quarters of a second. It's all captured on video, and that was the start of it.

CHANG: You know, one of the biggest moments in the trial was when you put your client on the stand. Were you at all concerned that going into that testimony, that putting him on the stand could backfire?

RICHARDS: Of course. I mean, it's a nightmare whenever you have to put your client on the witness stand. And when he was up on that witness stand - I don't know if anybody noticed, but I did not show him one video. I showed him two still photographs. I wasn't going to go through a lot of the minutia with the video and let Binger try and cross-examine him. I think I had him on the witness stand for about an hour and 15 minutes, and Binger had him for over - I think it was 4 1/2 hours.

CHANG: Binger is the prosecutor.

RICHARDS: Yes. I think he did a very good job for an 18-year-old kid who was testifying for his life.

CHANG: Now, the jury was given instructions on some lesser charges that they could have chosen to convict Rittenhouse on, not just homicide. You objected to some of those instructions, I understand. I'm just curious. When the jury was out for so long - like, what was it, 27 hours? Were you worried that they were haggling over a lesser charge?

RICHARDS: Very - basically, what happened in this case was the state overcharged the case from the beginning. They never reassessed the evidence, and they wanted the jury to do their dirty work in lowering the charges and finding him guilty of something. We were afraid of a compromise verdict with the lesser included there. The jury took their time, and they did incredible work. I mean, those instructions - I'm a lawyer, and I couldn't understand them, so - and that's not the judge's fault. They're just - they've gotten to be too much. They're legalese. And jurors tend to go by the smell test. Does it seem right? Does it seem wrong? And that's what we wanted the jury to do.

CHANG: That said, let me ask you, do you feel that your client regrets what happened that night?

RICHARDS: He has expressed regret to me. Unfortunately, in a criminal court, that is not something that one is rewarded for until sentencing, which is not where we wanted to get. If he had to do it all over again and there were riots in Kenosha, I know that Kyle, unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your bend, would leave that problem to somebody else. It almost cost him his freedom.

CHANG: That is Mark Richards, who successfully defended Kyle Rittenhouse. Today, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges against him.

Thank you very much for being with us today.

RICHARDS: Have a good day. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.