18 year old Illinois-native, Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty of all charges on Nov 19, 2021, after nearly 27 hours of jury deliberation.
Arrested on Aug. 25, 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse turned himself in to Antioch police station, one hour after he fatally shot two Black Lives Matter protesters and wounded another in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The shootings occurred during the protests and civil unrest that followed the murder of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot in the back by a white police officer causing him to be partly paralyzed.
According to AP News, Rittenhouse was charged with at least five counts: first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree attempted intentional homicide, and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment. Along with two lesser counts that were dismissed by Judge Bruce Schroeder: possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 and the failure to comply with an emergency order from state or local government.
At the trial, Rittenhouse and his defense team argued that he did in fact kill Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26 and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, purely out of self-defense. “He said he was going to kill me if he got me alone. I was alone. I was running from him. I pointed it at him, and it didn’t stop him from continuing to chase me,” Rittenhouse testified to the jury members.
The trial began on Nov. 2, after many days of testimony and deliberation spread out over three days, the jury acquitted Rittenhouse of all charges presented against him, unanimously agreeing with Rittenhouse’s lawyers claim that he had only shot Rosenbaum, Huber and Grosskreutz out of self-defense.
As stated by The Guardian, Rittenhouse was 17 when he came to Kenosha, armed with an AR-15, “[Rittenhouse] began patrolling the streets, staying out after curfew, with the apparent approval of certain police officers on duty at the time,” Rittenhouse and a few others claimed they were protecting property from rioters, and proceeded to act as informal medics and unofficial security for town businesses.
The Guardian also reported that there was conflict outside the courthouse on Friday, “Supporters of Jacob Blake and Black Lives Matter faced off with supporters of Rittenhouse and angry words were exchanged after the 18-year-old was acquitted.”
One Kenosha activist, Adelana Akindes, who is suing the city over law-enforcement’s treatment of her during a protest last summer, had told The Guardian that there are “two sets of laws” in America — “one that applies to those who protest police brutality and racism, and another for those who support the police.”
The trial has been the center of attention for the past three weeks and Rittenhouse spoke with Fox News host Tucker Carlson about what happened. “This case has nothing to do with race. It never had anything to do with race. It had to do with the right to self-defense,” he told Carlson in an interview. “And if I was convicted … no one would ever be privileged to defend their life against attackers.”
As explained by AP News, Judge Bruce Schroeder, the longest-serving circuit judge in Wisconsin, had granted a defense motion to throw away the weapons charge. Defense attorneys, Mark Richards and Corey Chirafisi, pointed out a plot-hole in Wisconsin law, that allows minors to possess shotguns and rifles as long as they are not short-barreled. Rittenhouse’s rifle barrel was longer than 16 inches, which is the minimum barrel length allowed under state law allowing Shroeder to dismiss the case.
This specific charge was cause for much confusion towards the end of the trial AP News reported that defense attorney Michael Cicchini said, “There doesn’t seem to be much ambiguity here,” he said. “(The charge) should have been dismissed earlier.” However, there was a good amount of confusion where AP News reported, “Legislative records show the statutory language went through multiple revisions until at least 2011. The wording is hardly straightforward. Schroeder himself said he was confused about it when Richards first asked him to toss the possession charge out earlier this year.”
Demonstrators took to New York over the verdict, a video circulating on social media showed large crowds of people peacefully protesting in Brooklyn and on the Manhattan Bridge. President Joe Biden commented on the controversy in a statement with White House reporters and Wisconsin police officers, urging for the public to be calm. “While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty of all charges on Nov 19 that the jury has spoken.”