Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal of all charges has come as no surprise to some Wisconsin legal analysts who say prosecutors have always faced the daunting challenge of arguing that the teen did not fire his gun in self-defense.
“I think the way self-defense is defined in law in Wisconsin, it’s going to be difficult to prove that charge,” said John Gross, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and director of public defense. Project.
Gross said that from the start of the trial, he and his legal colleagues — prosecutors and defense attorneys — noted that “unless the prosecution does something really remarkable here or shows us some evidence we don’t know about, we don’t see that ending in a conviction.”
Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with murder, attempted murder and reckless safety endangerment for the murders of two men – Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Hopper – and the wounding of a third, Gaige Grosskreutz – with an AR semi-automatic rifle in the summer of 2020 during a tumultuous night of protests over the shooting of the black man Jacob Blake by White Kenosha Police Officer.
Flashpoint on guns and racial injustice
Rittenhouse, then 17 and a former police student, said he went to Kenosha to protect property from rioters. He is white, like those he shot. But the case has become a flashpoint in the country’s debate over guns, vigilance and racial injustice.
His supporters viewed him as a patriot who wanted to stop lawlessness and who exercised his Second Amendment right to bear arms and defend himself.
Critics viewed him as a vigilante, with some accusing him of being a white supremacist, a charge his family denied. Outraged at the ruling claimed there were double standards at work – that a black man accused of the same crimes would have been convicted.
Gross said he understands the reaction and expects people to be upset with the verdict, but: “You can’t say the jury got it wrong. They didn’t get it wrong.”
“The result dictated by law”
Gross said Wisconsin’s martial law, which is generally consistent across states, allows an individual to use lethal force when they reasonably believe that deadly force or dangerous force that could cause significant bodily harm or death is about to be used against them. .
“Prosecution [had] To convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt [Rittenhouse] He wasn’t really acting in self-defense.”
With that burden placed on the prosecution and with the law allowing Rittenhouse to assert the defense, “that is the outcome dictated by the law in this case.”
“I think the prosecution did a little bit of damage by presenting the case the way they did,” Gross said. “They really wanted to try and make a case for the jury that Mr. Rittenhouse was some kind of vigilante and that he was coming to Kenosha looking to shoot people.”
Rittenhouse testified about the threats
Rittenhouse told the jury that earlier that evening Rosenbaum had threatened to kill him twice. He said 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.
“Someone threatens to kill you and then tries to take a gun away. Well, is it reasonable to think that they might be trying to get the gun to shoot you? “
For those following the case, the verdict came as no surprise to many, even if they wanted to see Rittenhouse convicted, said defense attorney and former Wisconsin attorney general, Julius Kim.
“[They] We were not surprised by the verdict because when they saw the videos… they could see how hard the jury might have seen that he wasn’t defending himself,” he said.
The prosecution had to rebut self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt, but was caught in a spectacle of chaos, backed up by video evidence, of people who came after Rittenhouse that evening, Kim said.
“The question is can the jury reach a conclusion without reasonable doubt that Kyle Rittenhouse was not afraid of imminent death and great bodily harm? They could not come to that conclusion. The important thing is that a tie goes to the defendant.”
Watch | Rittenhouse stands on plea for self-defense during a murder trial:
Paul E. Bucher, a criminal defense attorney and former attorney general, said he was not surprised by the verdict. He believed that the prosecution “lost their way and lost their focus.”
He said prosecutors spent a lot of time trying to prove that Rittenhouse intentionally tried to kill someone.
“Did he shoot and kill these gentlemen? Yes, admit it. Why would you spend the time on that? They didn’t spend much time refuting self-defense,” Bucher said.
“What was he thinking?”
Bucher said he would have called in experts in the use of force or psychologists or psychiatrists “because we are now focused on Rittenhouse’s mind.
“What was he thinking? Was it reasonable and was the amount of force used reasonable? I didn’t see that and was surprised. They kind of forgot about it.”
Stephen Wright, an assistant professor of law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he believes some of those surprised by the verdict may have been influenced by Rittenhouse’s actions before the shootings — coming from Illinois to Wisconsin during the Blake protests. He says he was there to defend private property while armed with an AR semi-automatic rifle.
None of this is illegal
“None of this is illegal in the United States,” Wright said. “Once you accept that, you just have to look at the facts of what happened that night.”
Wright felt the prosecution and defense made “really, really strong” cases, but “the defense did a very, very good job of saying ‘you know what? You cannot say that his behavior was unreasonable beyond a reasonable doubt. “
He also said that governance may have been “a function of the Kenosha community”.
“They looked at the case and said, you know, according to our values, our societal values, Mr. Rittenhouse is under threat.”
Wright said that Rittenhouse, who testified at the trial, helped himself tremendously by taking the stand and that he was impressed by how well he got through hours of prosecutorial questioning.
“I don’t remember one big slip,” he said. It was obvious that he practiced it.”