A California attorney said Monday that a Kenosha County judge will allow him to appear in court on behalf of an Illinois 17-year-old accused of killing two people during a protest in Wisconsin.
John Pierce, of Los Angeles, is not licensed to practice in Wisconsin and would need the court’s permission to appear in court for Kyle Rittenhouse. Such requests are routinely granted, but Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Jason Zapf has asked for a hearing on the matter “to address several issues.”
Judge Bruce Schroeder granted Pierce’s request Monday, Pierce said. Online court records do not indicate that a hearing ever took place. Zapf didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Pierce has no real criminal defense experience and has been promoting Rittenhouse as a patriot, saying the case is one of political prosecution, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. He has also worked to solicit donations for Rittenhouse’s defense.
Prosecutors have filed a motion asking a judge to force Pierce to abide by Wisconsin rules on pretrial publicity or face sanctions, the Journal Sentinel reported. They contend Pierce’s statements, interviews and tweets about the case could be read as encouraging future jurors to acquit Rittenhouse despite state law.
Pierce has promoted information that would not be admitted as evidence at trial, such as calling Rittenhouse “God fearing” and “service-oriented,” which is all irrelevant and encourages jury nullification, the prosecutors contend.
Jury nullification refers to juries acquitting defendants even when their actions amount to a crime under the law, often as a rejection of the law itself, a show of disagreement with the punishment that would result from a conviction or to advance jurors’ own biases.
Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Illinois, is accused of fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz during a demonstration Aug. 25 that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha.
Rittenhouse told police he was attacked while guarding a business and that he fired in self-defense. He faces multiple charges, including intentional homicide, reckless endangerment and being a minor in possession of a firearm. Wisconsin law doesn’t permit minors to carry or possess a gun unless they’re hunting.
He posted $2 million bail on Friday and was released from custody. He is due back in court Dec. 3 for a preliminary hearing.
Rittenhouse’s case has taken on political overtones. Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement have painted Rittenhouse as a trigger-happy white supremacist. Conservatives upset over property destruction during recent protests have portrayed him as a patriot exercising his right to bear arms during unrest.