The November 19 acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse by a Wisconsin jury on all charges, including first-degree reckless and intentional homicide, is a travesty of justice. It sends a message to other rightists that vigilantism will go unpunished so long as it is clothed in claims of “self-defense.” It echoes the verdict in the 2012 trial of George Zimmerman who was exonerated for his murder of Trayvon Martin that same year.
“We’re a little dismayed by the situation,” Kenosha resident Max Lewis told NBC news. “This case should have been cut and dried. You kill two people in the street, you get punished for it, end of story.”
Exactly the opposite happened.
Rittenhouse left his home in Antioch, Illinois, and traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 25, 2020, armed with an AR-15-style rifle. There he joined other armed men who went into the streets in response to protests against the shooting of Jacob Blake. A 29-year-old Black man, Blake was left partly paralyzed after a cop had shot him seven times two days earlier.
Video evidence showed Rittenhouse shooting and killing Anthony Huber, 26, and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36. He also shot and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, 27.
Rittenhouse claimed he was defending himself against a perceived threat, and that his life was in danger. But he created the dangerous situation by parading around with a gun that he aimed at protesters responding to the racist brutality against Blake.
The New York Times generously characterized Rittenhouse as someone “who has idolized law enforcement since he was young” and who went to Kenosha “with at least one mission: to play the role of police officer and medic.” The facts showed Rittenhouse was an armed vigilante mimicking the behavior of the cops he idolized.
Karen Bloom and John Huber, the parents of Anthony Huber, one of Rittenhouse’s victims, issued a statement soon after the verdict denouncing the outcome of the trial. The excerpt below sheds light on what actually happened that night. It effectively answers the killer’s fraudulent “self-defense” claim and points to the complicity of the cops in these inexcusable murders.
“The police did nothing. Concerned citizens, confronted with a person shooting indiscriminately on the street, stepped in to stop the violence. Anthony was shot in the chest trying to disarm Mr. Rittenhouse and stop his shooting spree. Still, the police did nothing. Mr. Rittenhouse continued to shoot, maiming Gaige Grosskreutz. The police let Mr. Rittenhouse leave the scene freely. Mr. Rittenhouse came to Kenosha armed to kill. Kenosha police encouraged him to act violently, and our son is dead as a result.”From November 19, 2021, statement by Karen Bloom and John Huber
The conduct of the presiding judge prejudiced the jury in favor of Rittenhouse and turned the teenager’s victims into criminals. Judge Bruce Schroeder frequently abandoned even the pretense of the appearance of a dispassionate magistrate and acted more like a protective guardian watching over the accused.
Schroeder sent a clear political message to the jury when before their deliberations he dismissed one count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18. Rittenhouse was 17 years old at the time of the killings, which tragically confirmed that his weapon was “dangerous.” But Schroeder dismissed the charge because a loophole in Wisconsin’s law excludes guns with longer barrels.
During jury selection the judge denied requests to send questionnaires to the jury pool. He then wrapped up jury selection in a single day, even though only one person of color was selected.
Schroeder screamed at and dressed down the prosecutor in ways seldom witnessed in U.S. courts.
The judge decreed that the prosecution could not refer to those Rittenhouse shot and killed as “victims” in his courtroom, but defense attorneys could potentially call them “rioters” or “looters.”
“Let the evidence show what the evidence shows,” Schroeder said. “And if the evidence shows that any or more than one of these people were engaged in arson, rioting, or looting, then I’m not going to tell the defense they can’t call them that.”
This turned reality on its head. Rittenhouse was on trial for the shooting, not his victims. Arson, rioting, and looting—even if the victims were guilty of such allegations—are not crimes punishable by death. And the law does not support vigilante justice.
Rittenhouse deserved a guilty verdict on all counts and a long sentence behind bars for the crimes he committed.