Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges in connection with his shooting of three men, two of them fatally, in Kenosha, Wis., last August. The jury properly found that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense.
This case should never have been brought, and reeked of political pandering. Rittenhouse was on the streets of Kenosha, where he worked and his father lived, on the third night of riots following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The multi-day riots themselves were the end of a chain of bad decisions by Wisconsin governor Tony Evers, who fanned the flames of misinformed outrage at the Blake shooting and then resisted calls to put an adequate number of National Guard members on the streets to restore order.
Rittenhouse was 17 at the time and — whatever his reasons for being in Kenosha in the first place — he clearly wasn’t the aggressor in the confrontations that night. He was attacked in sequence by three men, one of whom clubbed him over the head with a skateboard, and another of whom admitted on the stand that Rittenhouse fired only when he pointed a gun at Rittenhouse. He shot all three, killing the first two.
Every American has a fundamental right to self-defense. That right has been recognized in the law since ancient times. As Andy McCarthy has detailed, the Rittenhouse prosecution tried to criminalize that right by arguing that defending himself against his first attacker made him fair game for the next two. The prosecution also rested a good deal of its case on a dubious charge that Rittenhouse’s carrying of a rifle was illegal, a strained reading of Wisconsin law that was rightly rejected by the trial judge.
You would never know any of this from listening to hysterical media reports obsessing over the fact that Rittenhouse crossed state lines to be in Kenosha and baselessly calling Rittenhouse a “white supremacist,” a charge shamefully repeated by President Biden and other Democratic politicians — never mind that all three of the men he shot were white. The same media are now stoking misplaced anger at the verdict, practically begging for more riots. Biden, to his belated credit, now says that the verdict should be respected.
The trial was conducted in a shameful circus atmosphere, in which national journalists demonized the trial judge (a Democrat with decades of experience on the bench and a reputation for favoring criminal defendants), the prosecutor pointed a rifle at the jury with his finger on the trigger, and MSNBC ended up getting kicked out of the courtroom after a stringer was caught following the bus carrying the jurors. It is to the jury’s credit that they did not crack under the pressure to throw the defendant to the wolves.
More judges should reconsider cameras in their courtrooms after this fiasco, but at least their presence showed the country the utter meltdown of the prosecution’s case. Would that more of the commentators had noticed.
Criminal cases are often messy. Trials regularly reveal that the people involved are more complex than efforts to turn them into heroes, villains, or stand-ins for their entire race. The important thing is that Kyle Rittenhouse received due process of law and a fair trial before a jury of his peers. Any one of us might depend upon that some day.