If you’re on the Kyle Rittenhouse jury, there are many questions that are likely swirling around in your head. Every one of these are questions are ones that the prosecution would be thrilled to know you’re pondering. One may be, “Why does a 17-year-old own an AR-15, a military-style semi-automatic rifle?” That would be a fair question since it’s been called “A perfect killing machine.” It was engineered to have a “maximum wound effect.” The tiny bullets allegedly travel three times the speed of sound. After a bullet hits a body, the flesh is ripped open, destroying tissue, nerves, blood vessels and vital organs. It’s probably not the ideal Christmas gift for a teenager, whose brain’s frontal lobe, the portion governing reasoning and judgment, hasn’t even been fully formed. Another question may be, “Why the heck did this armed teenager have to go to the ‘protest’ and/or ‘riot’?” That’s another fair question since his hometown is Antioch, Illinois, 30 minutes away from Kenosha, the city in which the alleged crimes occurred. He chose to travel across state lines to put himself in the center of a violent scene. Although he alleged that evening on multiple occasions that he was an EMT, he was not. He lacked the appropriate training and experience to avoid potential conflict and to properly assist those in need.
Those questions, and others like them, are ones that the prosecution hopes the jury will focus on during deliberations. The prosecution deems them extremely relevant inquiries since they have attempted to persuade the jury that Rittenhouse provoked the attacks that led to the shootings. They alleged that Rittenhouse cannot avail himself of protection under the self-defense laws since his irresponsible actions caused the alleged victims to respond the way that they did.
While that argument is a legal one, it’s not likely to be a winning one. Questions that the defense is hoping the jurors are asking during deliberations includes, “Regardless of why he was there, wasn’t he attacked…multiple times?” Another question likely is, “When he was attacked, didn’t he reasonably fear death and/or great bodily harm?”
No one knows what each juror is thinking. Many legal pundits passionately speculate what the jury is going to do, however, they just don’t know with certainty. However, what is most reasonable to assume is that it’s likely that some jurors may take exception with the teen arming himself and intentionally placing himself in the middle of a disturbance. Whatever his claimed reasons were, he can’t get around the fact that all of this wouldn’t have occurred if he chose not to be there. Additionally, he also can’t escape the reality that only three people were shot that entire evening and he was the only one who did the shooting. That said, I also suspect that jurors will not allow those feelings to impact their decision.
I believe that jurors will do exactly what the prosecutor passionately requested of them during his closing. He asked them to put themselves in the shoes of Rittenhouse. He then asked them to ask themselves whether his fear of death was reasonable. It’s that exact analysis that will likely lead to an acquittal. The jurors, and any intellectually honest member of the “Court of Public Opinion,” would have to find that Rittenhouse’s actions were legally justified. When picturing themselves in his shoes, under those same set of circumstances that confronted the teen, jurors would likely also find it reasonable to pull the trigger. The evidence established that just prior to each of the shootings, Rittenhouse was confronted with actions that reasonably created a belief that death or great bodily harm was imminent.
Regardless of the verdict, one takeaway from this trial is that it was proven that what we learn from media accounts is rarely 100% accurate. Even well intended reporters pass along information that doesn’t always reflect the truth. It’s not unlike that game of telephone that we played as kids. Assuming the message starts off as accurate, it invariably comes out as some bastardized version of the truth in the end. For example, in this case, we were erroneously led to believe that Rittenhouse was a “white supremacist vigilante.” That was never proven because it doesn’t appear to be accurate. The danger is that the public then reacts based upon what they hear. That could have dire consequences, depending on what the false facts are.
Another lesson is that the criminal system is not about finding the truth. I always chuckle when I hear attorneys say, “We are looking forward to our day in court when the truth will come out.” Trials are not about the pursuit of truth. First, a defense lawyer’s obligation is to acquit their clients using all legal means available. They don’t have to “seek the truth.” We saw that in many high-profile trials. Prosecutors, on the other hand, do have that obligation. They are held to a different standard and must not pursue cases against defendants they know to be innocent and/or against who they don’t have sufficient evidence. In this case, I’m still wondering how the prosecutor didn’t know what his witnesses were going to say. If he did, it would have been clear to him that Rittenhouse was legally justified in using deadly force on the night in question. With that realization, this entire trial may not have even been necessary.