In the Kenosha shootings, Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all counts. Rittenhouse stood behind the defence table, dressed in a black jacket with a burgundy tie and shirt, while each not guilty decision was read. He fought to fight back emotions, then cried and looked to drop forward on the table, where one of his attorneys was holding him.
Rittenhouse’s mother collapsed into her hands as the final judgement was pronounced. Over the course of four days, the panel of five men and seven women discussed for more than 25 hours in a carefully watched case that inflamed an already divided nation. The verdict cannot be overturned.
Since the August 25, 2020, shootings, the case has pitted Americans who saw Rittenhouse as an armed juvenile vigilante versus others who saw him as a citizen picking up guns to protect shops from looters and rioters. The panel was commended by the judge, who said he “couldn’t have asked for a better jury.”
Following the announcement of the conviction, lead prosecutor Thomas Binger informed the court, “The jury has represented our community in this trial and has spoken.”
In a statement, the family of one of the victims, Anthony Huber, said, “There is no responsibility for the individual who murdered our son.” Crowds gathered outside the courthouse after the judgement on a cool, bright afternoon.
“We want the public to know that the nation you inhabit in now isn’t the… United States that we used to live in,” said Justin Blake, Jacob Blake’s uncle, whose shooting by police last year spurred the demonstrations when Rittenhouse turned up armed.
One of the films the jurors requested to see again was a drone footage depicting Rittenhouse shooting Joseph Rosenbaum, which was important to the defense’s plea for a mistrial in the case.
The decisions follow a two-week trial that featured dramatic and powerful evidence from Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old at the centre of disputes over self-defense, gun ownership, and Black Lives Matter protests.
Rittenhouse was charged with five crimes, including first-degree intentional homicide, reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and two charges of first-degree recklessly endangering safety. For two of the five charges, jurors might also consider lesser offences. Rittenhouse risked a mandatory life term in jail if convicted on the most serious allegation.
Prior to discussions, Judge Bruce Schroeder dropped a misdemeanour firearms possession allegation and a non-criminal curfew violation.
The allegations originate from last year’s catastrophic disturbance following the killing of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, by Kenosha police.
Rittenhouse fatally shot Rosenbaum, who was following the boy and threw a bag at him, before fleeing. A mob chased the boy, and Rittenhouse opened fire on an unnamed guy who kicked him, fatally shot Huber, who had assaulted him with a skateboard, and injured Gaige Grosskreutz, who was equipped with a handgun.