JUSTICE WATCH - Criminal trials concern allegedly criminal conduct by the defendant. In Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial, the conduct was his shooting of three people, two of whom died.
The charges against Rittenhouse and his defenses frame the issues. Lay people do not realize that in court, issues are all king. Nothing is more important than the issues.
Issues are Questions
An issue is nothing more than a question. The question can be over whether the defendant engaged in certain behavior (issues of fact), and if so, what are the legal consequences of that conduct (legal issues). If Rittenhouse had claimed an alibi that he had been at home the entire evening, then the factual issue would have been whether Rittenhouse is the person seen on the video and self-defense would not have been an issue. Since Rittenhouse never denied his presence or even his conduct, his trial dealt with the legal issue whether his conduct was legally excused by his claim of self-defense.
Self-Defense is Primarily a State of Mind Defense
To claim self-defense when harming or killing another person, the jury has to focus on whether (1) the defendant had a state of mind which justified his behavior and (2) was his belief reasonable?
“The actor [Rittenhouse] may not intentionally use force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm unless the actor reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself.” Wis Stat. § 939.48(a)
The prosecution has the burden to prove that Rittenhouse’s belief was not reasonable. The state’s main witness was Richard McGinnis, a journalist for Daily Caller. McGinnis saw Kyle Rittenhouse shoot Joseph Rosenbaum and he saw the events immediately before Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum. McGinnis testified that Rosenbaum appeared "very angry" as he screamed “Fuck You” and lunged for the barrel of the Rittenhouse’s rifle. When the prosecutor became angry at McGinnis who was his own witness, McGinnis added, “"When did I say that I gave a reason? I just said what he was trying to do, I will say that as many times as you want me to, but I have no clue why he was doing what he did, but I saw him go for the front portion of the weapon."
Rosenbaum’s Lunge Touched off the Other Shootings
After Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum, McGinnis took Rosenbaum to the hospital across the street, while Rittenhouse walked away. Others followed Rittenhouse calling out that he had just shot someone, at which point Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz attemped to stop Rittenhouse. Huber’s death and Grosskreutz injuries were legally foreseeable results from Rosenbaum’s lunging at Rittenhouse’s gun in that they were actiong in response to the shooting by apprehending the shooter.
Causation in Law
There are legal rules concerning whether an action legally causes a result. The general rule is that if the second action is a reaction to what the first person did, then the first action legally caused the second. If Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum because Rosenbaum lunged for the rifle, then Rosenbaum’s action was the legal cause of his own death. People hate it when the law takes such twists. However, the law is more astute than people realize. If Rittenhouse’s shooting Rosenbaum was a bizarre reaction to Rosenbaum’s lunge, then the chain of causation would have been broken. I do not recall this point being argued in court.
Pivotal Point One in Rosenbaum’s Death
This video is crucial, more important than this article...
Until that morning, Rosenbaum, who had a criminal record for domestic violence, had been an in-patient the Aurora Psychiatric Hospital outside Milwaukee, but he had been released into a city which had just experienced riots the night before and further violence was anticipated that night. Yet, the hospital did not provide Rosenbaum with enough meds for even one full day. He tried to get more at Walgrens but it was closed. By late that evening Rosenbaum was off his meds and acting crazy. As McGinnis testified, he appeared very angry yelled Fuck You at Rittenhouse and lunged for the rifle. That fact tells us that Rosenbaum was very close to Rittenhouse.
The pivotal moment had occurred when Rosenbaum was released without an adequate supply of psychiatric mediations. If Rosenbaum’s violent tendencies were not controlled by his meds while at Aurora, he should not have been released. If his meds controlled his behavior, he should have been provided an adequate supply. Whichever scenario is accurate, Rosenbaum would not have lunged at Rittenhouse’s rifle and Rosenbaum would not be dead.
Neither Rosenbaum nor Rittenhouse can be held morally or legally liable for Rosenbaum’s and Rittenhouse’s interaction.
Pivotal Point Two in Rosenbaum’s Death
Rittenhouse’s bringing the rifle is not the second pivotal moment. The crucial act was Rittenhouse’s friend Dominick Black’s stepfather’s unlocking the guns and leaving the rifle where Rittenhouse could take it with him. Had the rifle remained locked up, Rittenhouse would not have had it. Guns are locked up because teenagers do dumb things.
If Dominick’s stepfather had kept the guns locked up, then there would have been no rifle in Kyle’s hands at which Rosenbaum could lunge.
But for two pivotal events, no one would have been shot. Rosenbaum would either have been calmly on his meds and Kyle would have had no rifle.
While one can single a number of events which played a role in the deaths, these two seem to be the pivotal ones. Both were done by adults with time to think about their behavior. As far as we know, neither was mentally ill and neither had to make a split second decision. It did not require great wisdom not to release a mental patient without his meds nor did it require an Einstein not to allow teenagers to take an AR-15 to a riot. Prior to the nation’s taking polarized positions on Rosenbaum and Rittenhouse, let’s realize that the pivotal actions were taken by others and both Joseph and Kyle were acting in the way the average reason crazy person or average teenager would behave in the same or similar circumstances.
We may now watch Fox News and other Alt Righters ruin the rest of Kyle’s life by using him as a pawn in the culture wars. The Wokers will reply with their eternal vilification of Kyle.
(Richard Lee Abrams has been an attorney, a Realtor and community relations consultant as well as a CityWatch contributor. The views expressed herein are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch. You may email him at [email protected])