On Friday afternoon, the jury reached a unanimous decision on the legal fate of Kyle Rittenhouse, the young man who shot and killed two unarmed men, injured an armed man, in last summer’s violent disorder in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Allow us to provide some brief background for the purpose of context. The unrest was due to the serious injury of Kenosha’s Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man, who was shot multiple times by a police officer, when turning toward law enforcement carrying a knife. The police were aware of a warrant out for Blake’s arrest for third-degree sexual assault when they responded to a 911 “domestic incident” call.
In a summer that served as the so-called perfect storm, with so many of us frustratingly locked in due to Covid, and then the awful, horrific killing of George Floyd at the beginning of the summer, the riotous aftermath of Blake’s shooting was not unforeseen. People were hurting. People were angry. People wanted to respond. With understandable emotions all over the place.
Rittenhouse is white. The three men he shot are also white.
In a video interview with The Daily Caller on the evening of but prior to the incident, Rittenhouse — 17 at the time — stood in front of a boarded up business that was burned the night before. He told the camera, “So people are getting injured. And our job is to protect this business. And part of my job is to also help people. If there’s somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle because I need to protect myself obviously, but I also have my med kit.”
According to The New York Times, Rittenhouse was chased by a man named Joseph Rosenbaum. “As Mr. Rittenhouse ran into the parking lot, a man nearby fired a handgun into the air. Rittenhouse turned in the direction of the gunfire, just as Mr. Rosenbaum lunged at him. Mr. Rittenhouse then fired four times.” Rosenbaum did not survive.
Rittenhouse continued to run. Rittenhouse was then chased by a crowd that included Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz. Grosskreutz had his gun out when chasing Rittenhouse. According to The Washington Post, “After a few yards, Rittenhouse stumbled and fell to the ground. An unidentified man ran toward him and delivered a flying kick. Rittenhouse fired at him but missed. Then came Huber, who swung a skateboard at Rittenhouse’s shoulder and reached for his rifle. Rittenhouse fired again, hitting Huber in the chest. Last came Grosskreutz, who ran toward Rittenhouse with his pistol drawn. Rittenhouse raised his rifle and shot. A bullet tore through Grosskreutz’s right biceps.” Huber tragically died. Grosskreutz survived, and under testimony acknowledged he was pointing his gun at Rittenhouse.
Also according to WaPo, Rosenbaum had spent years in prison for sex crimes against children. They report that Huber had actually been friends with Jacob Blake, and Grosskreutz was both a former paramedic and anti-police-violence activist. CNN reported video footage showing Rosenbaum following Rittenhouse.
After three days of deliberations the jury found Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts, including intentional homicide. The Intramuralist was stunned.
To be clear, I wasn’t stunned by the outcome of the proceedings. I was stunned at the number of people who felt they knew better.
Please know I don’t claim to ascertain the guilt or innocence of Kyle Rittenhouse. When the verdict was announced, I didn’t hiss, cheer nor even shake my head. I didn’t handle the evidence. I didn’t sit in the courtroom. Maybe others know more than me.
As is my practice, I also tuned into both left and right leaning news sources — those who even with bias, seemed earnestly attempting to objectively examine the evidence. The majority — left and right — shared that Rittenhouse had a valid defense. As left-leaning CNN reported, “While the jury’s decision drew harsh criticism from the victims’ loved ones, legal experts say they were not surprised by the verdict.”
One can validly question whether or not Rittenhouse considered himself to be in imminent threat of harm; one can validly question what aspects of privilege entered into this case; one can also legitimately wonder how we apply the laws of self-defense. But for one to claim they know for certain, to claim this is a grievous injustice and that they know far better than the jurors that were in that room — whether that be another celebrity attempting to shame us, a politician again focusing solely on a singular side, or maybe just a prolific Twitter user who feels a need to tell the rest of us how they are right and we are wrong — my respectful, strong sense is their opinion is based more on politics than on facts.
If we are going to address the continued injustice in this world, we need to ensure our passion and politics don’t skew our view of the facts. CNN, The New York Times, and WaPo would seem to agree.
No judgment, friends. No need to hiss or cheer either.