BY VICTORIA TAFT | P J MEDIA
Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool
A seven-woman, five-man jury has returned a verdict in the self-defense case of Kyle Rittenhouse.
The jury spent four days deliberating whether the now-18-year-old would be locked up in a cell for the rest of life or be free after the attacks on August 25, 2020.
In the end, they decided that Rittenhouse was not guilty of maliciously killing two men and wounding another at the Kenosha riots in 2020.
Before the jury came in, Judge Bruce Schroeder told those gathered in the courtroom not to react and said if people couldn’t control themselves they’d be escorted out. Police were also deployed around the courthouse prior to the verdict being read.
Jurors spent four days picking through two weeks of trial testimony and evidence to determine whether the teen defended his life legally or if he “recklessly” or “intentionally” committed murder or attempted murder.
Rittenhouse faced five major charges that could have put him in prison for 60 years to life.
- First-degree intentional homicide, a mandatory life sentence, for killing Anthony Huber
- First-degree reckless homicide for killing Joseph Rosenbaum, for which the maximum sentence is 60 years
- First-degree attempted intentional homicide for wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, a possible 60-year sentence.
- Second-degree attempted intentional homicide, a 30-year possible sentence
- First-degree recklessly endangering safety for endangering Daily Caller reporter Ritchie McGinnis, which carries a 12-1/2 years sentence, a fine, or both.
- First-degree recklessly endangering safety for shooting and missing the man who kicked him in the face and was referred to in the trial as “Jump Kick Man.” This also carries the 12-1/2 sentence, a $25,000 fine, or both.
As the jury deliberated, activists, using amplified bullhorns to spout Black Lives Matter slogans and threats against the jury if they found a not-guilty verdict, wafted into the courthouse. Supporters yelling counter messages added to the bizarre, circus-like atmosphere. It’s unclear whether jurors could hear them, but it prompted questions by attorneys watching the proceedings of whether protesters’ First Amendment rights trumped the right to a fair trial.
Rittenhouse’s two attorneys’ flaccid defense was surprising, especially when they had such a strong case. Help poured in from other defense attorneys, such as Robert Barnes, who’d been aiding the case for months with polling, data experts, strategy, media help, and body language experts for jury selection. Then he was cut loose on practically the eve of the trial. It turns out they needed all of that help during the trial. Barnes said 2/3 of the people in the Kenosha jury pool thought Rittenhouse was guilty. Jury selection took one day. By contrast, jury selection for another high-profile case, the shooting of Ahmad Arbery, took two weeks.
Defense attorneys got more helpful testimony from prosecution witnesses than the prosecution at times. At other times, their moves baffled attorneys and laypersons alike. For example, agreeing to limit the testimony of arguably their best witness, a use-of-force expert, at the wishes of the prosecution! Prosecutors continually bluffed the defense attorneys with threats to bring in testimony or evidence to impugn Rittenhouse’s character. They put Rittenhouse on the stand, when using one wrong word or displaying one small affectation could have torpedoed his case. The kid did fine, but lawyers dispute that.
They had a clear-cut case of self-defense, but the defense needed every bit of help they could get because the court of public opinion was not on their side.
It was a political prosecution from the start. Indeed, the rioting started because of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man. Everything that stemmed from that incident, therefore, became tinged by the issue of race – the “Summer of Love” BLM and Antifa mob’s favorite trope.
Therefore, Kyle Rittenhouse must be racist, right? White (though of as mixed heritage), he had a gun, so obviously he’s a Klansman. It didn’t matter to the mob that the men he shot were white. The mob was dictating terms of the vicious and violent debate.
They started it and they were going to finish him.
Prosecutors brought the charges after only a cursory investigation of what happened that night and without collecting all the evidence. Indeed, empty bullet shell casings were found in the riot zone after police had long cleared the scene, police admitted on the stand.
Key witnesses went missing – sidelined by prosecutors who had them on the hook for other riot charges and were holding off their trials until after the conclusion of the Rittenhouse adjudication. Joshua Ziminski, who fired a handgun behind Rittenhouse as he fled from Rosenbaum, was not called. Neither was his wife. Both of them riled a mob to “kill him!” and “cranium that boy!” after Rosenbaum was shot.
Indeed, looking at the evidence, it’s clear that Rittenhouse shot the men as they were attacking him. Gaige Grosskreutz testified that Rittenhouse shot him, severely wounding him in the arm, only after he pointed his Glock pistol at him. Anthony Huber beat Rittenhouse in the head and neck with his skateboard before and after he fell to the ground. Even Grosskreutz, a medic, testified he was concerned that Rittenhouse could end up seriously injured or worse.
Prosecutors admitted that they never revisited or revised the charges – until the trial, when they added more “lesser and included” offenses in hopes that jurors would find something to pin on Rittenhouse.
Robert Barnes said on a Rekieta Law livestream that prosecutors had always known the identity of the “unidentified” “Jump Kick Man,” who used his heavy booted leg to inflict a Bruce Lee-style flying kick on Rittenhouse’s face, allowing the skateboard-wielding Huber to try and deliver a knock-out blow and grab his rifle.
Unsurprisingly, it turns out that “Jump Kick Man” was a frequent flyer at the courthouse. So were Huber, Rosenbaum, and Grosskreutz.
A photographer testified that prosecutors tried to get him to change his statement. He said he was so spooked by the meeting that he hired a lawyer. Prosecutors were accused by Barnes of suborning perjury of the Car Source owners, who claimed on the stand that they never asked people to watch their store the night of the riots. Photographs and testimony told the opposite story.
On the third night of the riots, when Rittenhouse and his friends were asked to keep watch over a local business whose other locations were being trashed and incinerated by rioters, gunshots were heard throughout the downtown Kenosha riot zone, signaling that many rioters were armed. Two of the people Rittenhouse came into contact that night were armed with guns. Others were armed with chains, rocks, a skateboard, fists, and two tried to grab his gun, a Smith and Wesson M&P rifle on an AR platform. Prosecutors brushed them aside, suggesting that only Rittenhouse’s gun was dangerous that night.
Prosecutors didn’t want to give up ground on the self-defense charges. They gave away the game when they told the jury that Rittenhouse brought a gun to a fistfight as if he should toss his gun and fight the wiry Rosenbaum with his bare fits. Assistant District Attorney Jim Kraus claimed that Rittenhouse should have simply taken a beating. ADA Binger claimed that the rioters weren’t all that bad and listed overturned porta-potties, small fires, suggesting it was for these “small” reasons that Rittenhouse shot them – not because they attacked him.
Prosecutors have an obligation to the truth and the law. They did neither in their closing arguments. They misstated the law and the evidence – the last thing jurors hear before going into deliberations.
Prosecutors claimed Rittenhouse couldn’t declare self-defense because he had a gun and the first man he shot, Rosenbaum, only had his fists. Of course, medical testimony revealed that Rosenbaum had been reaching for the gun when Rittenhouse shot. They claimed, literally without evidence, that “Jump Kick Man” didn’t kick Rittenhouse in the head, when a video clearly showed the assault. Prosecutors withheld video evidence at least twice during the trial. Prosecutors held onto the mob-angering gun charge that they well knew wasn’t applicable until the day the jury got the case. They stated that Rittenhouse should have fired warning shots to do, er, something. If you’re keeping book at home, that’s illegal.
There’s a difference between unethical behavior and trial strategy.
Prosecutors conducted a clinic in unethical behavior.
And now the jury has rendered its verdict. And Kyle Rittenhouse is the only one who must live with the consequences.