A jury found Rittenhouse not guilty in the shooting of Kenosha
Kenosha, Wes. — Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges Friday after he defended himself in the fatal Kenosha shooting that has become a flashpoint in the debate over guns, vigilance and racial injustice in the United States.
Rittenhouse, 18, began to choke, fell to the ground and then hugged one of his lawyers upon hearing the verdict.
He had been charged with murder, attempted murder, and reckless endangerment after killing two men and wounding a third with an AR semi-automatic rifle during a tumultuous night of protests against police violence against blacks in the summer of 2020. The young, white former police intern, like those he shot.
The anonymous jury, which appeared overwhelmingly white, deliberated for nearly 3 and a half days.
Rittenhouse would have served life if convicted of the most serious charge, first-degree murder, or what some other states call first-degree murder.
As he dismissed the jurors who sat sentencing in the politically combustible case, Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder assured them that the court would take “every measure” to keep them safe.
The deputy sheriff immediately pulled Rittenhouse out the back door through the judge’s rooms.
In response to the ruling, Attorney General Thomas Binger said the jury had spoken.
Rittenhouse’s mother was sitting several feet from him on a bench in the courtroom, panting with delight and beginning to weep when the clerk read out a series of five not guilty verdicts. She hugged the others around her.
Wisconsin Lieutenant Mandela Barnes, a black and Democratic candidate for the US Senate, denounced the result.
“Over the past few weeks, many have feared the outcome we just witnessed,” Barnes said. “The presumption of innocence until proven guilty is what we should expect from our justice system, but that standard isn’t always applied equally. We’ve seen far too many black and brown young adults They are killed, only to be brought to trial after his death, while Kyle Rittenhouse’s innocence is a feasible judgement.”
Meanwhile, right-wing political figures welcomed the ruling and condemned the case against Rittenhouse.
“Everyone who knew what actually happened in Kenosha last year assumed that would be the verdict,” former Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tweeted. “Fortunately, the jury thought the same.”
As the outcome approached, Governor Tony Evers called for calm and said 500 National Guard personnel would be available to serve at Kenosha if needed.
Rittenhouse was 17 years old when he went from his home in Antioch, Illinois, to Kenosha after businesses in the city were looted and burned due to the shooting of a black man by a white police officer, Jacob Blake.
Carrying a weapon that authorities said was illegally purchased for the Palace Rittenhouse, he joined other armed citizens in what he said was an effort to protect property and provide medical assistance.
Bystander and a drone captured most of the frenzied chain of events that followed: Rittenhouse murdered Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, then protester Anthony Hopper, 26, and injured protester Gigi Grosskreutz, now 28.
Prosecutors portrayed Rittenhouse as a “wishful soldier” who went out looking for trouble that night and was responsible for creating a dangerous situation in the first place by aiming his rifle at the protesters.
But Rittenhouse testified: “I did nothing wrong. I stood up for myself.”
He burst into tears at one point, telling a jury that he opened fire after Rosenbaum chased after him and grabbed his gun. He said he was afraid that his gun would be confiscated and used to kill him.
Hopper was then killed after hitting Rittenhouse in the head or neck with a skateboard, and Grosskreutz was shot after aiming his gun at Rittenhouse.
After the ruling, Hopper’s parents, Karen Bloom and John Hooper, said the result “sends an unacceptable message that armed civilians can appear in any city, incite violence, and then use the danger they create to justify shooting people in the street.”
The case was part of an unusual confluence of trials that reflected the deep division over race in the United States: in Georgia, three white men are on trial for the murder of Ahmed Arbery, while in Virginia, a trial is taking place in a lawsuit over the deadly white supremacist rally held in Charlottesville in year 2017.
The exact racial makeup of the Rittenhouse jury was not clear because jurors were not asked about their race in court.
The bloodshed in Kenosha occurred during a summer of sometimes violent protests, which erupted across the United States through the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other instances of police use of force against blacks.
While some Americans condemned Rittenhouse as a vigilante, some on the right hailed him as a hero who exercised his rights to the Second Amendment to the rifle and tried to end the lawlessness.
President Donald Trump said at the time that Rittenhouse appeared to have been “attacked very violently”. His supporters have donated more than $2 million to his legal defense.
Rittenhouse was also charged with possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under the age of 18, a misdemeanor that appeared likely to result in a conviction. But the judge dismissed that charge before jury deliberations after the defense argued that Wisconsin law did not apply to the long-barreled rifle Rittenhouse used.
Schroeder’s handling of the trial drew attention at several points, including when he led the applause of veterans on Veterans Day before a defense witness who was in the military about to take the stand. The judge also allowed Rittenhouse himself to pull juror numbers from a lottery drum to determine the last 12 who traded.
Video clips and testimonies from some prosecution witnesses appeared to support Rittenhouse’s claim of self-defense.
Witnesses described Rosenbaum as “overly aggressive” and said he dared shoot him and threatened to kill Rittenhouse earlier that night. A videographer testified that Rosenbaum lunged at the gun before being shot, and the pathologist said his injuries appeared to indicate that his hand was on top of the barrel.
Rosenbaum’s fiancée also revealed that he was taking medication for bipolar disorder and depression. Rittenhouse’s lawyers called Rosenbaum a “crazy person”.
Some civil rights activists saw a double standard in the way the white gunman was treated.
On the night of the shooting, law enforcement officers saw Rittenhouse and other gunmen on the streets despite the curfew and gave them bottles of water, and one of the officers was heard saying over the megaphone, “We appreciate you guys.”
Later, amid the turmoil, Rittenhouse managed to cross the police line with his gun slung over his shoulder and was not arrested that night. He surrendered the next day.
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