After two days of deliberations, a jury rejected Nathan Kivi’s claim of self-defense, finding him guilty of first-degree intentional homicide for the shooting deaths of brothers Kenneth and Richard Samuel.
In the courtroom, split by an aisle, about two dozen of the Samuels family and friends filled the wooden benches, as they had throughout the weeklong trial. On the other side of the aisle, one woman sat behind Kivi.
“Let’s not have any reaction, no matter what it is,” Judge Bruce Schroeder warned those assembled as they waited for the jury to file into their seats.
As the verdict was read just after 3 p.m., members of the Samuel family burst into silent tears. At least one member of the jury wiped away tears as well.
Kivi, 26, showed no emotion.
The jurors convicted Kivi of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, along with guilty verdicts on additional charges of possession of a firearm as a convicted felon and bail jumping.
Kivi had been out on bond for a felony domestic violence charge at the time of the killings.
With the conviction for first-degree homicide, he faces a mandatory life sentence.
Argument leads to shooting
At the trial, witnesses, including friends of the Samuel brothers and of Kivi, testified they had been at the Beach Bar, 402 S. Lake Ave, in Twin Lakes, on the night of Thanksgiving in 2017.
The Samuels brothers were there with a large group of friends, gathering after family holiday dinners. Kivi and four other men came to the bar because their regular tavern was closed for the holiday.
By the time the Beach Bar closed, two of the men with Kivi had left, and he and his two remaining friends got into an argument with a friend of the Samuels in the parking lot.
During that argument, Kivi fired what he called a warning shot with his handgun. One of Kivi’s friends ran from the scene with that first shot, while Kivi and his remaining friend got into Kivi’s truck to drive away.
As he neared the exit of the parking lot, the window of Kivi’s truck was shattered by what police believe was a beer bottle.
Kivi then stopped his truck and got out, shooting the Samuel brothers in the parking lot.
Kivi alleges self-defense
At trial, Kivi testified that he shot the brothers as they ran toward him, saying he feared for his life.
Richard, 28, died at the scene. Kenneth, 31, died shortly thereafter at Aurora Memorial Hospital of Burlington. Both brothers were lifelong residents of Twin Lakes.
Kivi’s defense attorneys argued that most of the witnesses who testified against Kivi were close friends of the brothers and suggested they had coordinated their statements in the hope of a conviction.
The defense also characterized the Twin Lakes Police investigation as sloppy and incomplete.
Rage, not fear
District Attorney Michael Graveley argued that Kivi was motivated not by fear but by rage.
Graveley pointed out during his closing statement that Kivi never raised the issue of self-defense to police or to his friends or his family in conversations about the shootings, instead telling his parents and a friend that he had “blacked out.”
In recorded jailhouse conversations with his sister, Graveley said, Kivi had said more than once that he would be a “legend” in Kenosha County because he was going to beat the charges for “two bodies.”
In his closing argument, Graveley urged the jury to reject the self-defense argument and hold Kivi accountable.
“No legends will be made here,” he told the jury.
Kivi is scheduled to be sentenced June 3.