COMMENTARY - The Kyle Rittenhouse trial is over. After days of deliberation, a Kenosha County jury found the 18-year-old teenager who brought an AR-15 to Kenosha, Wisconsin, and killed two protesters while wounding another not guilty on all counts, finding that the teenager acted in self-defense.
But why was he able to get off?
Here’s what a law professor at the University of Wisconsin wrote in the Wisconsin State Journal:
Despite all this, the verdict in the Rittenhouse case will be viewed by many as sending a message. What message it sends depends in large part on what type of social media you consume. To a minority, Rittenhouse is a hero who exercised his Second Amendment rights to uphold law and order. To a majority, he is a vigilante who went to Kenosha with the intent to kill protesters who were justifiably outraged by yet another unjustified shooting of a person of color by law enforcement.
That majority is high skeptical, if not outright dismissive, of Rittenhouse’s claim that he acted in self-defense. But this view of the case against Rittenhouse is not based on what happened that night in Kenosha, it is based on what led Rittenhouse to be in Kenosha. It isn’t that Rittenhouse didn’t act in self-defense, it is that he shouldn’t be allowed to claim he acted in self-defense.
Still that doesn’t do it for me. We really won’t know the answer until we hear from the jurors. And while the focus should’ve been on the hateful crimes of Rittenhouse (The victims are Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, two white men who were at a rally to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was left partially paralyzed after being shot seven times by police, and Gaige Grosskreutz, who survived the shooting), unfortunately there were a lot of other shenanigans that have taken away from the focus of the trial, which may have led to Rittenhouse getting off with no consequences.
The first of those many things happened months ago in February when Judge Bruce Schroeder denied the motion by prosecutors to have Rittenhouse rearrested for violating the terms of his release. He had left the court with a false address and his bond was raised by $200,000, according to a report by The Washington Post. So Rittenhouse broke the rules and didn’t have to face any consequences? Sounds about white.
In March another bad sign came when Judge Schroeder delayed the trial date for Rittenhouse by seven months. Like not only was this an uphill battle, it was going to be long as hell until we got there. The Associated Press reported that the trial was set to begin on March 29, but it was postponed until November 1 with a status hearing set for May 17.
Damn, that’s a long-ass time to wait.
Then, as you would imagine, things got pretty quiet in the Rittenhouse trial. But then the cameras appeared in the courtroom. All of a sudden everyone wanted to show out: Rittenhouse, Judge Schroder and even the jurors.
Judge Schroeder decided to be the first person to steal headlines when he sided with Rittenhouse’s defense lawyers and told prosecutors that they cannot use the word “victim” to describe the two people the gun-boy murdered. But, he did allow the defense to call the victims“rioters,” “arsonists” or “looters.” Wow.
A juror on the case decided to be next in line when he decided he wanted to be a comedian in the middle of a murder trial. But the thing is, the joke was about the Jacob Blake shooting. According to a report by CNN, a juror told a joke to the deputy along the lines of “why did it take seven shots to shoot Jacob Blake” and ended with “because they ran out of bullets.” Not funny and super insensitive. The juror was dismissed.
Rittenhouse’s moment was next when he cried while giving his testimony. Dramatically, I might add, and Judge Schroeder called for a break. What a nice guy.
But that wasn’t the end of that.
Lebron James decided to jump in on the Twitter discourse and clown Rittenhouse for his dramatic sobbing in court. Like many people in the Black community, he got a couple of laughs out of it. And naturally, conservatives got angry about it.
Unfortunately, the testimony from the lone survivor of the shooting became an afterthought in this trial. Gaige Grosskreutz took the stand to describe what it was like to watch Rittenhouse, who was 17 years old at the time, reload his rifle in front of him. Scary. Why didn’t his testimony go viral?
Just a couple of days later, the defense filed a motion for a mistrial after the prosecution and judge went at it. Judge Schroeder took the mistrial motion under advisement, which would’ve ultimately allowed Rittenhouse to get off according to Reuters. Which he eventually did.
But wait, there’s more.
Remember when Judge Schroeder’s phone went off during the trial and the ringtone that played was “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood, the theme song for Trump Rallies?
You can’t make this up.
What about when Judge Schroeder took a break for lunch referencing the food he was ordering saying, “I hope the Asian food coming... isn’t on one of those boats from Long Beach Harbor.” I guess Judge Schroder thought he was a comedian like the juror who was dismissed. Even though the joke was racist and not funny at all.
What about the fact that Rittenhouse was allowed by Judge Schroeder to pull his jurors out of a hat. Like a damn game of bingo.
From NBC News:
Kyle Rittenhouse on Tuesday randomly selected the seven women and five men who will decide whether he should be held criminally responsible for gunning down two men during a social justice protest in Wisconsin last year.
The Kenosha jury was picked from a pool of 18 people who sat through two weeks of testimony and arguments in a case that’s drawn national attention and sparked debate on gun rights and race.
Rittenhouse himself randomly drew six juror numbers out of a tumbler, which resulted in the 12 selected to decide his fate.
The defendant from nearby Antioch, Illinois, reached into the brown tumbler and pulled out six pieces of paper, one at a time. Each had a number that corresponded with a prospective juror.
Rittenhouse carefully placed those pieces of paper on the defense table before a court official collected them and showed them to prosecutors.
All but one juror appeared to be white, with one man apparently a person of color.
Earlier this week, Judge Schroeder dismissed a misdemeanor charge of illegal possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under the age of 18 as stated in NBC News. Even though Rittenhouse was a person under the age of 18, with an AR-15. Make it make sense.
Also, the judge banned MSNBC from the trial. They’re a news organization, disseminating information. Can he even do that?
Kyle Rittenhouse is a teenager that killed two people and injured another. The focus needed to be on that. Unfortunately, many of the questionable actions by the participants in this trial took away from Rittenhouse’s violent actions. As a result, Rittenhouse got off without a slap on the wrist.
(Noah A. McGee is a staff writer at The Root where this story was first published.)