On November 19, 2021, Kyle Rittenhouse, the individual who fatally shot two people and wounded another during riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on August 25, 2020, was acquitted of all charges in a criminal trial that determined if he acted in self-defense.
Prosecutors tried to argue that Rittenhouse did not act in self-defense. The New York Post spoke with a state and federal criminal defense attorney, Lou Shapiro, who suggested the prosecution had a poor strategy.
He said, “They oversold the case because the prosecution was stuck on this theory that Rittenhouse was this guy out to kill,” Shapiro said. “If you can’t get that out of your mind as a prosecutor, you’re not gonna be able to offer lesser charges because that does not fit that narrative. They oversold and it backfired.”
After two weeks of testimony and evidence, in addition to Rittenhouse going on the stand to plead his case, the defense convinced a jury of 12 that the then-17-year-old faced existential threats that justified his use of lethal force.
Jurors deliberated for about 27 hours over four days before they acquitted him on all five counts:
- First-degree intentional homicide
- First-degree reckless homicide
- First-degree attempted intentional homicide
- Two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment
According to a report by NPR, the jury was also asked to consider more moderate versions of several counts, but they were not persuaded.
“While we are disappointed with the verdict, it must be respected. We are grateful to the members of the jury for their diligent and thoughtful deliberations,” declared the Kenosha County District Attorney’s office in a statement. “We ask that members of our community continue to express their opinions and feelings about this verdict in a civil and peaceful manner.”
On the night of the Kenosha riots, Rittenhouse was open carrying an AR-15.
Rittenhouse lives in Antioch, Illinois, which is 30 minutes southwest of Kenosha, and accompanied a friend Dominick Black to help clean up graffiti and other vandalized property in the Wisconsin town.
The riots kicked off because of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August 2020, when police received a domestic disturbance call involving Blake.
During the trial, Rittenhouse emphasized that he feared for his life in all three of his confrontations. Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, while injuring Gaige Grosskreutz, who was 26 at the time.
Rittenhouse recounted how Rosenbaum chased him and tried grabbing his rifle.
“Mr. Rosenbaum was chasing me. He said he was going to kill me if he got me alone. I was alone. I was running from him. I pointed it at him, and it didn’t stop him from continuing to chase me,” Rittenhouse said in his testimony.
Rittenhouse proceeded to fatally shoot Rosenbaum and then ran towards law enforcement.
Huber and Grosskreutz subsequently pursued Rittenhouse.
According to video evidence, Huber hit him with a skateboard, which prompted Rittenhouse to shoot back in self-defense, killing his assailant.
Grosskreutz then approached Rittenhouse with a loaded Glock pistol pointed at him. Rittenhouse felt threatened in this situation and shot Grosskreutz in the arm.
The prosecution made the case that Rittenhouse was culpable for creating this dangerous environment.
They pointed to his decision to carry an AR-15 during a riot and his willingness to stay at a dangerous scene even after being separated from his friend.
The prosecution also highlighted that Rosenbaum was unarmed, and Rittenhouse shot him four times.
When Grosskreutz took the stand, he said he feared for his own life due to the presence of Rittenhouse’s rifle.
He insisted that he was attempting to disarm Rittenhouse, not kill him.
When Grosskreutz was on the stand and was asked how he felt in the encounter, he responded that he felt like he “was going to die.”
“Some might have had concerns about the decisions that brought Mr. Rittenhouse to Kenosha that evening and how he reacted. However, unless the state proves beyond a reasonable doubt that this wasn’t reasonable and that he didn’t believe that he needed to use deadly force to defend himself, then the only proper verdict is acquittal,” said Chris Zachar, a criminal defense attorney based out of La Crosse, Wisconsin, who did not participate in the trial.
Other organizations such as the National Foundation for Gun Rights praised the verdict.
In a press release published on November 19, 2021, Dudley Brown, the Executive Director for the National Foundation for Gun Rights, shared the following thoughts about the Rittenhouse verdict:
“Today, the American justice system worked as designed, and a young man who has been lambasted, defamed, and threatened by the media and anti-gun Left was declared innocent of all the charges against him. When we saw the video evidence of Kyle defending himself and others in Kenosha, WI, NFGR made the decision to support him right away, and we’re thrilled to see that he is now a free man.”
NFGR is a non-profit organization that deals with pro-gun-related cases going through the court system.
“Self-defense is a God-given right, and Kyle defended himself in the face of grave danger and bodily harm. We hope that Kyle will now be allowed to live a free and prosperous life and that all Americans will understand that the Second Amendment isn’t about hunting – it’s about the right to defend oneself from tyranny and lawless criminal actors,” added Brown.