Rittenhouse, 18, claimed self-defence in
shooting of protesters at racial justice
demonstration in Wisconsin last year.
By Al Jazera
November 19, 202:
Information Clearing House
Jazeera" -- A jury in the United States has found Kyle
Rittenhouse not guilty of all charges related to
shooting of protesters at a demonstration
against racial injustice in Kenosha, Wisconsin,
Rittenhouse, now 18, had faced a potential life
sentence for fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum and
Anthony Huber and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz during
mass protests on August 25, 2020.
A 12-member jury on Friday found Rittenhouse not
guilty on two counts of homicide, one count of
attempted homicide and two counts of recklessly
Rittenhouse broke down sobbing after the verdict,
which came shortly after the judge warned the
courtroom to remain silent or be removed.
“The charges against [the] defendant on all
counts are dismissed with prejudice and he’s
released from the obligation of his bond,” Judge
Bruce Schroeder told the court.
Rittenhouse’s lawyers argued he had a right to
carry the semi-automatic rifle he brought to the
demonstration and had
acted in self-defence after being attacked.
But civil rights and anti-racism groups in the US
denounced Friday’s verdict as a “travesty”.
“Rittenhouse’s trial highlights an urgent need
for reform for both police and the criminal legal
system. The system is broken, and it desperately
needs to be fixed,” Shaadie Ali, interim executive
director of the American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU) of Wisconsin, said in a statement.
“The verdict in the #KyleRittenhouse case is a
travesty and fails to deliver justice on behalf of
those who lost their lives as they peacefully
assembled to protest against police brutality and
violence,” the NAACP, a racial justice advocacy
group, said in a
widely watched trial has stirred bitter debate
in the US over racism, gun violence, and
Reporting from outside the courtroom, Al
Jazeera’s John Hendren said there is “great concern”
over possible unrest after the verdict.
“We’re likely to see a very strong law
enforcement presence later today,” he said. “Whether
we see a repeat of what happened in the summer of
2020, we do not know. There haven’t been huge crowds
gathered at the courthouse steps.”
A resident of Illinois, Rittenhouse had travelled
to nearby Kenosha when protests erupted in August
2020 after a white police officer shot
Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the back,
The demonstrations came amid
widespread civil unrest in US cities following
the death three months earlier of George Floyd, an
unarmed Black man, who was
killed in Minneapolis by a white police officer.
Rittenhouse claimed he was in Kenosha to protect
property from rioters and to provide medical
assistance to anyone who needed it.
But the prosecution said the teenager
instigated the deadly violence. Prosecutor
Thomas Binger repeatedly showed the jury a drone
video that he said showed Rittenhouse pointing an
AR-style weapon at demonstrators.
“You cannot hide behind self-defence if you
provoked the incident,” Binger
said during his closing arguments. “If you
created the danger, you forfeit the right to self-defence
by bringing that gun, aiming it at people,
threatening people’s lives. The defendant provoked
Rittenhouse’s lawyers had moved for a mistrial,
claiming prosecutors had provided them with an
inferior digital version of the drone video that
showed Rittenhouse raising his gun and pointing it
towards the protesters. During deliberations, the
jury had asked to view the video again.
Rittenhouse’s defence team also had attempted to
paint the protesters as the ones who incited the
In closing arguments, Mark Richards,
Rittenhouse’s lawyer, had called Rosenbaum – the
first person who was fatally shot during the protest
– a “rioter” and a “crazy person” who went after
“Mr Rosenbaum was shot because he was chasing my
client and going to kill him, take his gun and carry
out the threats he made,” said Richards, adding that
Rittenhouse was then attacked by a “mob”.
Rittenhouse took the stand in his own defence
during the trial, saying in
dramatic testimony that he feared for his life
on the night of the fatal shootings. “I didn’t
intend to kill them. I intended to stop the people
who were attacking me,” he told the court.
The judge was forced to order a break in
proceedings after Rittenhouse began sobbing while
recalling the events that led to the shootings.
In a setback for the prosecution during the
trial, the judge dismissed a charge against
Rittenhouse for underage possession of the firearm.
The not-guilty verdict appears to have rested on
the definition of self-defence in Wisconsin state
law and the jury’s interpretation of videos of the
incident, said Gene Rossi, a former federal
prosecutor who has been watching the trial.
The defence’s reliance on second-by-second
analysis of the videos and Rittenhouse’s own
testimony proved critical in winning his acquittal,
Rossi told Al Jazeera.
“The jury must have strongly felt that Mr
Rittenhouse did not adequately provoke the reaction
of the deceased victims and that he had the right to
self-defence,” he said.
But Rittenhouse’s detractors pointed to the
bigger picture to assess the now-acquitted
defendant’s role in the killing. “The
micro-specifics of Rittenhouse’s case don’t matter,”
the Gravel Institute, a left-wing advocacy group,
said in a tweet.
“What matters is that the system felt it had to
go through them with such detail and care. Has it
ever extended that leeway to the millions of people
who carried some drugs, or shoplifted, or violated
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