Kyle Rittenhouse’s Acquittal Continues to Drive Significant Debate

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Rittenhouse during trial. | Image from cnbc

Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted by a jury of his peers on November 19, 2021, in a polemical self-defense case where the then-seventeen-year-old shot and killed two assailants in self-defense, while wounding another individual during riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin in August 2020.

Despite the jury’s verdict, there are still groups who believe that the wrong decision was made on November 19.

Rittenhouse, a student at Arizona State University, is now facing calls from his fellow peers at ASU to be expelled from the university.

Jonathan Turley, a renowned legal scholar with left-leaning views, wrote a piece highlighting the growing pressure coming from student groups at ASU to have Rittenhouse expelled.

Groups such as MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán), Students for Socialism, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the Multicultural Solidarity Coalition are carrying out a rally this week to “get murderer Kyle Rittenhouse off [the] campus.”

ASU student Taskina Bhuiya launched a Change.org petition to criticize the verdict and demand that Rittenhouse be “held accountable for the crimes he has committed.”

So far, ASU has not taken a strong stance on the Rittenhouse controversy.

Prominent media voices on the left such as TV host Stephen Colbert also expressed their concerns with the Rittenhouse verdict.

In an episode of The Late Show towards the end of November, Colbert opined on the Rittenhouse trial’s outcome:

“OK, cards on the table: 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.”

Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who stated during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the lionization of Rittenhouse was “appalling,” conceded that “The actual verdict in this courtroom, based on this evidence, is a defensible one, I think.”

“And there were problems with the prosecution theory,” added Toobin. “Think of the three people that he shot. [Joseph] Rosenbaum chased him. The other one attacked him with a skateboard. The third… pulled a gun on him. Those are potential grounds for self-defense. That is not a terrible self-defense case and that’s what the jury believed.”

The skateboard attacks against Rittenhouse were a particular point of contention.

Video footage showed Rittenhouse sprinting down a street and multiple assailants causing him to fall to the ground. He is then seen being attacked by Anthony Huber, who strikes Rittenhouse in the head with the side of a skateboard.

Warning: video footage contains graphic content and language. Video starts at 19:44 showing incident between Kyle Rittenhouse and assailants. Incident footage ends at 20:02. Video from The New York Times.

Prosecutor Thomas Binger had a different take on Rittenhouse’s use of force. He emphasized Rittenhouse fired twice at an unarmed individual whom he allegedly kicked in the face before fatally shooting Huber.

Similarly, Michael O’Hear, professor of criminal law at Marquette Law School, argued that the state perhaps had a case against Rittenhouse for potentially provoking the situation by attending these unrest-laden protests.

According to Wisconsin jury instructions, “A person who engages in unlawful conduct of a type likely to provoke others to attack, and who does provoke an attack, is not allowed to use or threaten force in self-defense against that attack.”

The only exception is if the provocateur believes he’s in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm. From there, a slightly different set of rules go into effect.

O’Hear described the provocation angle as “an interesting and complicated part of the law” of self-defense.

For O’Hear, the question centered on whether Rittenhouse’s decision to shoot Rosenbaum provoked Gage Grosskreutz and Anthony Huber to attack him, either out of sheer anger or in an attempt to stop further violence.

“I think there’s something to that,” O’Hear commented, “and I’ve been wondering if the state might raise that.”

In his closing argument, Binger doubled down on the provocation point:

“When the defendant provokes this incident, he loses the right to self-defense. You cannot claim self-defense against a danger you create.”

Pro-gun organizations have maintained that Rittenhouse was justified in using self-defense during the Kenosha riots of 2020.

“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, Wisconsin, NFGR made the decision to support him right away, and we’re thrilled that he’s a free man,” declared Dudley Brown, Executive Director for the National Foundation for Gun Rights.

“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,” Brown added.

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