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Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict: Not Guilty

On Friday Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, was acquitted of all charges regarding the deadly shootings that happened last summer in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He was accused of killing two people and shooting another during a protest after a White Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man.

Rittenhouse was 17 at the time of the shootings. He went from his home in Antioch, Illinois to Kenosha where businesses and buildings were being destroyed during the riot. The teenager was carrying an illegally purchased firearm as he joined other armed citizens in what he claims was a group effort to protect the community of Kenosha. 

Rittenhouse took the stand and testified that he acted in self-defense using an AR-15-type rifle during the protests. The weapon was unlawfully in ownership of Rittenhouse that night as it was supposed to be used for hunting at a friend’s property up North. The night of the protest Rittenhouse took the semi-automatic rifle with him as he volunteered to protect properties as well as assisting people with medical care.

Rittenhouse took the stand and gave an emotional testimony. He began to choke up as he claimed that he acted in self-defense. He broke into tears recounting the shootings. The prosecution sought to demonstrate that Rittenhouse acted criminally and recklessly. 

Prosecutors also attempted to display Rittenhouse as a “wannabe soldier” who initially sought out trouble that night and was responsible for creating a dangerous scenario by pointing a rifle at demonstrators.

Rittenhouse fired his rifle a total of eight times during the night in question. Events of that night have been captured on camera, some of these recordings being shown in court.

Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, were killed in the shootings. Gaige Grosskreutz, 27 was wounded. Rosenbaum was shot four times. Rittenhouse fired two more shots at an unknown person who tried to kick him. Huber hit the teenager with his skateboard and Rittenhouse fatally shot Huber and shot Grosskreutz, who was armed with a gun, in the arm. 

Rittenhouse was charged with 5 felonies, among them were first-degree intentional homicide and reckless endangering. The 12-person jury took more than 25 hours in the span of four days, deliberating the verdict. His most serious charge, first-degree intentional homicide, could have gotten him life in prison if found guilty. Judge Bruce Schroeder threw out the weapons charge in the case due to a technicality over the length of the gun’s barrel. Another count against Rittenhouse over violating curfew the night of the shootings was thrown out after the judge ruled that prosecutors did not present sufficient evidence.

After Judge Schroeder dismissed the jurors he assured them that the court would take precautions in ensuring their safety. Following the verdict, a sheriff’s deputy promptly escorted Rittenhouse out the back door going through the judge’s chambers.

Schroeder’s handling of the case drew attention among viewers. He led an applause for military veterans on Veterans Day before a defense witness, a veteran, took the stand. Schroeder also let Rittenhouse draw juror numbers from a raffle drum set to see who the final 12 jurors would be. 

The trial became a talking point in the debate over guns, vigilantism and racial injustice in the U.S. Reactions to the verdict have differed among the nation. Civil rights activists are calling out a racial double standard in the way the white gunman was treated. After firing several shots, Rittenhouse was able to get past the police line, weapon slung over shoulder and was not arrested that night. Law enforcement officers saw the armed men on the streets that night as a helpful assistance. There was even video of officers giving the armed men water bottles and speaking over the megaphone saying “we appreciate you guys.”

The case contributed to a bigger discussion in the divide over race in the United States. A trial is underway in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery by three white men.

Lee Merritt, attorney for Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones talked to CNN about the Rittenhouse verdict. Merritt said that it is “deeply troubling” and “very scary” for Arbery’s family as closing statements for the three white men on trial in Arbery’s case are approaching. 

“It is so similar. The Kyle Rittenhouse case was a case about vigilantism. This case is a case about vigilantism, and I’m hoping that the jury doesn’t take the same course as the Rittenhouse jury,” Merritt said.

Jacob Blake’s family attorney B’Ivory LaMarr also spoke on the matter to CNN, warning that this verdict sets “a dangerous precedent” which may “embolden others.”

Reports from Beloit Daily News claimed that Gov. Tony Evers urged for peaceful demonstrations after the verdicts. In response to the verdict Mr. Evers said “I echo the calls of local Kenosha community leaders and join them in asking everyone who might choose to assemble and exercise their First Amendment rights in any community to please only do so safely and peacefully.”

President Biden is also responding to the verdict, offering assistance to Mr. Evers as well as the Kenosha community.  A quote obtained by the Washington Post said  “White House and federal authorities have been in contact with the governor to prepare for “any outcome” in the case.”

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