The Rittenhouse defense has invoked self-defense justification for the shooting deaths of 2 in Kenosha Wisconsin.

Given the context of:

  1. Protesters: similar to a "place of nuisance" in the sense there is a high probability of violence.
  2. Rittenhouse indicating intent to protect property from protests

How, if at all, does said context nullify the Rittenhouse self-defense?

RyanM has written a good response to a question posing a single issue (suspect's age), whereas my question is more consider with the broader context (suspect's statements, situation, nature of conflict). The narrow question is:

Does this latter fact [of being a minor in possession of firearm] make it impossible for him to claim self-defense?

This questions serves to cast a "wider-net" to consider the context ('all the facts') to determine the validity of self-defense.

  • 2
    I gave a related answer on what can affect a self-defense claim under the relevant law here.
    – Ryan M
    Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 8:49
  • youtube.com/watch?v=xMmCAbJT6U0 analyzes his case in detail (posted after I asked my question)
    – MWB
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 0:40

2 Answers 2


None of this affects a claim of self-defense

I've described elsewhere the things that do affect a self-defense claim in Wisconsin. These do not affect it.


I'm not sure what you mean by this: the existence of protesters has nothing to do with a claim of self-defense. The standard for lethal self-defense is much higher than could be satisfied by simply being near an angry crowd. Specific actions of protesters could affect it, but you'd need to detail which actions you're referring to.

Rittenhouse indicating intent to protect property from protests

This might affect the claim if it were his property (which it was not). Section 939.48(1m)(ar) of Wisconsin law provides for a castle doctrine if, basically, the person has unlawfully broken into or is currently unlawfully breaking into the defendant's home, vehicle, or place of business. Since it was not his property, this defense doesn't apply.

  • OP is suggesting that Rittenhouse's stated intent was criminal (see his comment under my question)
    – MWB
    Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 9:45
  • @MaxB Hmmm, good point. If the question is whether criminal intent affects it, that would suggest that this is largely the same question as yours. I mostly wanted to have some alternative to the other answer, which is definitely incorrect.
    – Ryan M
    Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 9:49
  • The initial bold statement is a very strong statement in the sense that it takes the position that it is not possible the two cited line items could establish mens rea, which could be leveraged to diminish if not nullify a self-defense claim.
    – gatorback
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 0:37
  • Given the recent verdict, this must be the correct answer. In my mind, when the defendant cited protecting property, I was thinking "mall cop", similar to Michael Drejka. To be clear: I would have thought a Wisconsin jury would not suffer minors crossing state lines with AR15s to play mall cop, but then again IANAL
    – gatorback
    Commented Nov 27, 2021 at 13:46

The argument is that rittenhouse provoked attack by being there knowing he was in danger. Self defense is not available if it follows from the original crime- I struggle to think of what specific crime he committed but weakly provoking easily provoked people into attacking you might be considered an assault.

The concept of fighting words may apply even though I dont think there were any words actually exchanged.

Fighting words are, as first defined by the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in Chaplinsky v New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942), words which "by their very utterance, inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality."

Injury is part of assault.

Basically any minor procedural point can be made to argue that an original crime occurred, therefore self defense is invalid- yet the circumstance were such that if you were to rule against him, the law would no longer be taken seriously by anyone.

  • 2
    Could you cite any reference for the proposition that "weakly provoking easily provoked people into attacking you might be considered an assault"? That seems highly dubious. Additionally, unlawful conduct does not completely preclude a claim of self-defense under Wisconsin law, as I discuss in my answer here.
    – Ryan M
    Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 8:48
  • Done........ I know it's a poor argument
    – user31975
    Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 8:56
  • 1
    It's pretty unlikely that a court would find this to be a case of fighting words. See, e.g., thefire.org/misconceptions-about-the-fighting-words-exception. Search that page for "Gooding shouted" for an example of some pretty provocative (and, fair warning: offensive) language that was not considered fighting words by the Supreme Court.
    – Ryan M
    Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 9:02
  • It's the only argument they would have
    – user31975
    Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 9:09
  • 2
    My answer to a similar question already establishes that unlawful conduct does not invalidate a claim of self-defense. "an original crime occurred, therefore self defense is invalid" is plainly not how the law works.
    – Ryan M
    Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 9:18

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