By Kaitlyn Bell
After three and a half days of deliberations, 27 hours of trial closed with a controversial verdict that has sparked questions on issues that go as far as federal law. On November 19, 2021, Kyle Rittenhouse, an 18-year-old on trial for first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment was acquitted of all charges against him. He was charged with six counts in total where a misdemeanor gun possession charge was dismissed by the judge.
Rittenhouse, born in Antioch, Illinois, traveled across state lines to attend the protests in August 2020 that erupted after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse, who at the time was 17, had illegally acquired an AR-15 rifle and crossed the border. He had told the media he went to Kenosha on that night to do his “job” and protect people’s property, specifically during that time a car dealership in Kenosha, and his actions were all out of self defense. Meanwhile, prosecution had argued against this, stating that Rittenhouse had joined an armed militia and instigated violence.
Kenosha’s protests had already left them with two days of unrest when Rittenhouse crossed the border. During the night he was in Kenosha, Rittenhouse was apparently seen being chased by a group of men including one of the two killed, Joseph Rosenbaum. Later that night, he was allegedly chased again, by people trying to detain him, where Rittenhouse shot and killed Anthony Huber, as well as severely injured Gaige Grosskreutz, who was armed when approaching Rittenhouse.
“I think like many people, I am angry and disappointed but utterly unsurprised. My expectations for this verdict disappointingly matched the reality: Rittenhouse was ruled innocent. This was no shock to me; I think those who expected different may have been a bit naive. White supremacy is an ever present force in our society, especially in America. To think that this situation would be exempt from this is a bit of an ignorant outlook. I think that late night show host Stephen Colbert put it best when he said ‘I'm not a legal expert, so I can't tell you whether or not Kyle Rittenhouse broke the law. But I can tell you this: if he didn't break the law, we should change the law,’” said junior Anna Detke.
Artwork by Saffah Azeem
Many people have mixed opinions about the verdict of the case.
Rittenhouse’s trial and its verdict is not only substantial for him and those involved, but also for the future of gun and homicide cases. Many have wondered how Rittenhouse’s verdict will affect the future of not only these cases, but also protests and other demonstrations.
“I think this case really sets the stage for future defendants who stand in the same place as Rittenhouse. It unfortunately might allow them to believe that they too can get away with serious crimes, like homicide, which is a dangerous narrative to have,” said sophomore Chesna Chummar.
The verdict of this case has left many uneasy, while others are content with the outcome. Despite the verdict, the future of protests and gun accessibility in coordination to homicide cases is yet again at the forefront of discussion in the media due to Rittenhouse’s trial.