“I stand by the conclusion the jury has made,” President Joe Biden told reporters Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges of shooting three people, two fatally, during an August 2020 protest in Kenosha, Wis. “The jury system works, and we have to follow it.”
Later that day, by contrast, Biden said the decision made him “feel angry and worried.” The anger and the president’s confusing effort for acceptance reflected a sharp division of opinion regarding the outcome of Rittenhouse’s trial—a confrontation based primarily on legally irrelevant considerations.
The unrest in Kenosha followed a police shooting in which a black man, Jacob Blake, was partially paralyzed. But Rittenhouse’s guilt or innocence had nothing to do with whether the use of force was justified or whether its reaction has been more accurately described as a riot or an exercise of First Amendment rights.
Rittenhouse, 17, said he brought the rifle to the protest because he wanted to protect local businesses from vandals, robbers and arson. But his guilt or innocence had nothing to do with whether one considered that decision heroic or reckless.
Rittenhouse’s political views and the merits of gun laws that allowed him to carry a rifle were also irrelevant. So was the fact that Rittenhouse—who lived in Antioch, Ill., 16 miles from Kenosha—”crossed state lines,” a detail that critics of the verdict oddly insisted upon.
What matters, as far as the law is concerned, was whether Rittenhouse believed that the use of deadly force was necessary every time he fired his gun. On that important issue, the jury heard credible testimony that supported Rittenhouse’s self-defense claims.
Testifying for the prosecution, Ryan Balch described Joseph Rosenbaum, one of the men who killed Rittenhouse, as “acting in an overly aggressive and violent manner.” Another prosecution witness, Richie McGinnis, testified that Rosenbaum followed Rittenhouse and lunged towards him.
“It was very clear to me that [Rosenbaum] specifically reaching for the weapon,” McGinnis said, reinforcing Rittenhouse’s claim that he feared Rosenbaum would grab the rifle and use it to shoot him. Other testimony indicated that Anthony Huber, the second person Rittenhouse was killed, attacked her with a skateboard, hit her in the neck, and tried to take her gun.
Gage Grosskretz, who was injured when Rittenhouse shot him in the arm, also testified for the prosecution. He admitted that he aimed the pistol at Rittenhouse.
The task of the prosecution was to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Rittenhouse had No Acting in self-defense, which was impossible with the testimony of one’s own witnesses. The jurors, who deliberated for more than 25 hours over four days, apparently took their work seriously and eventually concluded that the state had failed to meet its burden.
Politicians who condemned the verdict apparently ignored the evidence considered by the jury. He regarded Rittenhouse as a symbol rather than a man who deserved the protection that criminal defendants in our justice system are supposed to receive.
Despite the fact that all three men who shot Rittenhouse were white, Rep. Corey Bush (D‒Mo.) described The verdict as “white supremacy in action”. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D‒NY), who called the result a “miscarriage of justice” and “a dangerous precedent”. suggested Rittenhouse must be prosecuted under federal law.
Vice President Kamala Harris was a little more subtle, saying That “today’s verdict speaks for itself.” According to Harris, the lesson was that “there was still much to do” to make our criminal-justice system more equitable.
The most disappointing response came from the American Civil Liberties Union, which is generally eager to protect the rights of the accused, but in this case complained That Rittenhouse was “not held responsible for his actions.”
Contrary to that authoritarian sentiment, Biden had it right the first time around: The jury system works, or at least it did in this particular case.