Trial and Error? | Kyle Kim
For many, the verdict of the Kyle Rittenhouse trail could not have come at a worse time. The highly publicized and politicized trial, which overtook news outlets for the past three weeks, reached a verdict the Friday before Thanksgiving break. Now, families across the country could look forward to highly contentious debates over the Thanksgiving dinner table regarding the 2nd Amendment, Black Lives Matter, and the American legal system at large. Certainly not an ideal situation, especially given that many families were seeing each other for the first time since a travel-restricted, COVID-infested Thanksgiving 2020. But what exactly makes this trial so polarizing, and what should you expect moving forward?
To begin, here’s a brief background on the case. On August 25, 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse, a then-17 year old, traveled from his hometown of Antioch, Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin (a roughly 30 minute drive) with a semi-automatic rifle in a self-proclaimed effort to protect small businesses of the area from a march protesting police brutality. What followed was the death of two men, Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, as well as the wounding of a third, Gaige Grosskreutz, by Rittenhouse and his rifle. Rittenhouse was subsequently arrested, and faced the charges of first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree recklessly endangering safety, first degree intentional homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18, and failure to comply with an emergency order from state or local government.
Several months later, in January of 2021, Rittenhouse pleaded not guilty to all charges. The arguments and testimonies began on November 2, 2021 and lasted until the 15th. The trial itself recieved massive media attention, not unlike the proceedings of OJ Simpson, Ted Bundy, or even Derek Chauvin from earlier this year. This media attention could be attributed not only to the context of the trial itself, which grappled with murder, gun ownership rights, and vigilante justice in this country, but also the strange decisions made throughout the trial, including Judge Bruce Schroeder playing Jeopardy with prospective jurors, Rittenhouse drawing the names of six jurors to disclude from the deliberations, the banning of the word “victims,” and the variety of out-of-place jokes made by both the judge and jury throughout a trial of this gravity and magnitude.
In a nutshell, the prosecutors of the trial worked to prove Rittenhouse was recklessly endangering others during the night in question, while the defenders tried to prove that Rittenhouse was acting in self defense. Multiple pieces of video evidence were shown, as well as testimonies from a variety of individuals, including Rittenhouse himself.
By the end of the trial, following over 26 hours of jury deliberations, a verdict was reached, with Rittenhouse being acquitted of all charges. Understandably, people across the nation erupted into an enormous debate over the decision, with people from all sides of the political spectrum voicing their opinions on the matter. One notable example of a significant reaction was Facebook, who announced that they designated the events in Kenosha as a “mass murder” and would remove any posts in support of Rittenhouse. On the other end of the spectrum, far-right Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene introduced a bill to award Rittenhouse with the Congressional Gold medal following his acquittal.
To conclude, what does this trial mean moving forward? Well, it’s hard to say for sure. Rittenhouse’s trial raises a lot of questions, including the influence of media attention on court proceedings, the nature of self defense, and general flaws in the American legal system at large. We also can’t know what the future holds for Rittenhouse, as well as the victims of that August night in Kenosha. If anything, it’s safe to say that this trial will hold massive cultural, political, and legal significance for years to come.