Opinion: The Bizarre and Unjust Trial of Kyle Rittenhouse
By Sophia Alexandrou, Co-editor in Chief
On August 25, 2020, while carrying a semi-automatic rifle, 17-year-old, Kyle Rittenhouse, showed up to a Black Lives Matter rally in Kenosha, Wisconsin following the shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse eventually opened fire, killing two people and injuring one. Despite gathering five charges against him, Rittenhouse walked away a free man. Not only that, but Rittenhouse has become somewhat of a conservative icon since the trial, even receiving a standing ovation at a conservative convention in Phoenix. After two weeks, multiple yelling fits by the judge, and one not-so-convincing crying episode from Rittenhouse, the trial ended, indicating a low point for justice in the United States.
The main question that needed to be answered by the jury during this trial was whether Rittenhouse had fired while trying the defend himself. According to Wisconsin law, someone is allowed to use deadly force as means of self-defense if facing an equally deadly threat. However, one is not allowed to use deadly force if one has provoked the attack. The facts of this case indicate that Rittenhouse provoked the attack. He had a clear right-wing social media presence and showed up to a Black Lives Matter rally holding a semi-automatic weapon.
While Rittenhouse claims to have been there to protect himself and to help others, that is not his job. He is not a police officer or in any position of authority to protect civilians. In addition, the idea that he shot out of self-defense is ridiculous. For example, the first deadly encounter was with Joseph Rosenbaum, who not only had no weapon and therefore no means to kill Rittenhouse but was also shot in the back. Rittenhouse said that if Rosenbaum had taken his gun, he would have shot Rittenhouse and many others. Of course, this is completely circumstantial and is backed by absolutely no evidence. At the end of the day, Rittenhouse was a teenager who showed up to a rally for a cause with which he very publicly disagreed, armed with a semi-automatic weapon he was not even legally allowed to carry, and shot and killed two people. There is no solid evidence that either of these people posed any legitimate threat to his life which makes the entire basis of the defense’s argument invalid and weak. Rittenhouse was the only person to kill anyone that night.
Another aspect of this trial that ultimately resulted in an unfair consensus was the judge. Judge Schroeder not only acted unprofessionally several times throughout the trial but also exhibited clear bias towards the defense. Firstly, Schroeder went on a strange tangent about his decision to let Rittenhouse pick his jurors that exhibited some racial undertones. He claims this resulted in a “bad optic” since the clerk was black and had chosen a black juror. He stated, “There were 13 jurors, one of whom was Black. And when the clerk, the government official, drew the name out of the tumbler, it was a Black, the Black, the only Black.” This kind of racially insensitive language is not what needs to be exhibited by the overseer of a case that largely has to do with racial justice. In addition, the judge barred the prosecution from referring to the deceased as “victims.” However, he allowed the defense to refer to these people as “looters” and “arsonists” among other names. Judge Schroeder also barred the prosecution from mentioning the fact that just 15 days prior to the shooting, Rittenhouse had claimed that he wanted to shoot shoplifters at a CVS. This is an important aspect of the case and should have been presented to the jury. Throughout the trial, he showed significant levels of hostility towards the prosecution and frequently came to the defense of Rittenhouse.
There were many aspects of this trial that did not favor the pursuit of justice. From the biased judge to the weak prosecution to the majority white jury, it seemed as though it was doomed from the beginning. Justice in the United States will only be able to be served if a precedent is set in its judicial system. If the United States continues to set up cases like this to protect clearly hostile and violent people already shielded by their umbrella of privilege and not those whose lives were unjustly stolen from them, then nothing will ever progress. Kyle Rittenhouse’s fate is merely a manifestation of this country’s prioritization of the desires of the privileged class over rectitude.