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This or That: Was Kyle Rittenhouse rightfully acquitted?

This or That: Was Kyle Rittenhouse rightfully acquitted?

This or That: Was Kyle Rittenhouse rightfully acquitted?
December 02
13:00 2021

Kyle Rittenhouse verdict backed by evidence

On Aug. 25, 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse traveled from his hometown of Antioch to neighboring Kenosha to help out a community during the unrest that followed the shooting of Jacob Blake. On that night, he was chased by Joseph Rosenbaum into a car selling lot, where he attempted to grab the gun from the hands of Rittenhouse. Rosenbaum had previously threatened to kill Rittenhouse and Ryan Balch, according to his testimony at trial. 

More than a year later, Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges related to the shooting deaths of Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz, who allegedly chased and attempted to disarm Rittenhouse after he shot Rosenbaum. In the United States, the legal system operates on an innocent until proven guilty standard. 

Unless Rittenhouse is proven guilty, he is legally innocent. Unfortunately, that standard does not exist in the court of public opinion, and the media made a big mistake in their coverage, misleading readers and viewers as to the reality of what happened in Kenosha. To keep hammering this out in the court of public opinion after the verdict has been reached is a disservice to our legal system.

For example, the PolitiFact fact-check on the legality of Rittenhouse possessing was rated false. This fact-check partially read the law that covers the possession of firearms by minors in Wisconsin, but failed to read the conditions where the law applies, to short-barreled rifles, which Rittenhouse didn’t possess. If the law is murky, as the correction to PolitiFact says, then the fact-check wasn’t accurate enough to provide leeway. 

Judge Bruce Schroeder did his job well, to err on the side of caution with state prosecutors. He questioned the use of zooming in on the video of Rittenhouse shooting Rosenbaum, which many in the media and people on social media criticized him for, but he was correct.

When zooming in digitally, the device will use some method of interpolation, according to Dr. Michael Pound, an assistant professor at the University of Nottingham, guess what a bigger pixel would look like. Zooming in on a video is nothing like using a magnifying glass on a printed photo. Any action taken on a digital photo or video can alter its authenticity to the truth. Judge Schroeder made the right call to deny the evidence being presented without an expert coming in to verify what algorithm Apple is using to enable pinch-to-zoom. 

Seemingly every day, the judge talked about the media coverage. On the third day of the trial, he barred MSNBC from the courtroom after attempting to follow the jury, identify them and contact them post-trial before it even ended. Ted Rowlands, now a correspondent for CourtTV, said it is a common practice. Networks will attempt to contact the jury before the trial is over to schedule interviews.

This is where the legal system shines. Instead of one person facing pressure, an unnamed jury shares the burden. This jury ensures a common person can reasonably know the law and apply it, ensure the accused is represented and hammers the point of the verdict beyond a reasonable doubt. It is better for a guilty man to go free out of a lack of evidence, than for an innocent man to end up in jail.

Kyle Rittenhouse went to Kenosha, a community he was familiar with, to help out. He was there to protect a car lot and said in an interview that he was ready and able to use medical gear to help out. As he was being chased by Rosenbaum, someone fired their weapon and Rosenbaum lunged at Rittenhouse. He shoots Rosenbaum fearing for his life. Being chased by a mob, he runs up the street towards the police line. He falls to the ground and is attacked by Maurice Freeland. Seconds later, Anthony Huber attempts to slam a skateboard in his face.

As for Gaige Grosskreutz, he testified at trial and his words speak for themselves. He brandished his Glock pistol and pointed it at Rittenhouse. At that point, Rittenhouse then proceeded to shoot Grosskreutz in the bicep. Those are the facts of the case. Not just what was said by the people involved, but by the plethora of videos syncing various viewpoints of the action on the ground. 

Kyle Rittenhouse should have been found guilty

Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse was able to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family after being wrongfully acquitted for double homicide on Nov. 19. Despite clear video evidence of Rittenhouse marching around a Black Lives Matter protest armed with an AR-15 style rifle, it was not enough to convince a jury that he was guilty of his actions. While one man was vindicated of all wrongdoing, the families of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and the man he injured, Gaige Grosskreutz had to endure a bitter reality during their Thanksgiving. 

On the night of Aug. 25, 2020, peaceful protests filled the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin after the shooting of Jacob Blake. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protestors two nights before. Despite this, protests remained mostly peaceful until Gov. Tony Evers deployed the National Guard to protect firefighters and buildings from looters.

A citizen militia organization named the Kenosha Guard created a Facebook group page titled “Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives and Property” which garnered over 5,000 members. The group unlawfully patrolled the streets within 24 hours and was armed. Despite Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth claiming this militia provided no help in the matter, cameras captured police thanking members of the militia and passing them bottles of water.

An Illinois native, Rittenhouse stayed over with friend Dominic Black to “protect” a Car Source dealership. Surveillance showed Rittenhouse clashing with the crowd and Rosenbaum threw a plastic bag that contained personal items at Rittenhouse. Rosenbaum briefly chased Rittenhouse before being shot four times and killed. 

While Rittenhouse claimed this was self-defense, prosecutors argued that Rittenhouse lost all credibility of that claim when he aimed his rifle at Rosenbaum despite knowing he was unarmed. Huber remained a bystander until he heard Rittenhouse fire his weapon. Wanting to protect his girlfriend and others around him, he hit Rittenhouse on the neck with his skateboard. Rittenhouse stated that he felt Huber attempt to take the rifle away from him before firing, though DNA analyst Amer Rasmussen testified Huber’s DNA had not been traced on the weapon. 

Every American citizen is entitled to the right to a fair trial, but there was a controversial bias surrounding the Rittenhouse trial. Judge Bruce Schroeder banned prosecutors from using the word victim because he felt it was too “loaded.” However, he did allow defense attorneys the right to use words like looters or rioters. Language is everything in terms of persuasion. It is easier to sway a jury if one side is allowed to use extremely vivid vocabulary while the other is not awarded that privilege. 

Judge Schroeder also yelled at prosecutors during cross-examination when the jury was not present in the room and forbade prosecutors from using photo evidence of Rittenhouse posing with members of the Proud Boys. Minorities like myself knew Rittenhouse was not going to be convicted, despite our hope justice would be delivered to the families of the victims. The legal system has become all too predictable.

Rittenhouse’s theatrical performance of crocodile tears may have won over jurors and a biased judge, but we know he is anything but innocent of murder. Prosecutors legally came up short with evidence that Rittenhouse intended to kill or maim someone that night. However, they argued that he maneuvered his way around state laws to get his hands on a weapon and the ability to get away with murder.

Rittenhouse was a minor and could not legally carry a firearm under Wisconsin law, according to Politifact. In fact, he gave his friend money to purchase the weapon for him. This resulted in a misdemeanor charge which Schroeder threw out. Rittenhouse did not have the right to patrol streets while being armed: he gave himself permission.

We live in an era where George Floyd was suspected of counterfeiting a 20-dollar bill and received a public execution in the streets of Minnesota by having his neck compressed. Rittenhouse killed two men while injuring another and be cleared of all charges. 

Regardless of the outcome, Rittenhouse was either going to be found to be a martyr or a hero. Unfortunately, his acquittal can encourage members of the far-right to mimic his unlawful behavior. If he can murder protestors then surely they can too. Rittenhouse is being offered internships by GOP politicians. Maybe they can be praised for their crimes as well. 

Rittenhouse should have been found guilty to preserve the law. The last thing we can do is grant Rittenhouse celebrity status by continuing to talk about him. His story should only serve as a stain on the status of an imperfect legal system and nothing more. If we can’t trust the American law system, we have a lot more to change about America than we think.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

About Author

Adrian Maldonado

Adrian Maldonado

Chris Sotelo

Chris Sotelo

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