KENOSHA, SWITZERLAND. – Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges on Friday after pleading self-defense in the deadly Kenosha shootout that has become a flashpoint in the guns, self-defense and racial injustice debate at the United States
Rittenhouse, 18, began to choke, fell to the ground and then hugged one of his lawyers after hearing the verdict.
He had been charged with manslaughter, attempted homicide and reckless endangerment after killing two men and injuring a third with an AR-type semi-automatic rifle on a tumultuous night of protests against police violence against blacks in the summer of 2020. The former youth police officer is white, just like those he shot.
The jury, which appeared to be predominantly white, deliberated for nearly three and a half days.
Rittenhouse could have been sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the more serious charge, first degree intentional homicide or what some other states call first degree murder.
As he sacked the jurors, circuit judge Bruce Schroeder assured them that the court would take “all measures” to ensure their safety.
A sheriff’s deputy immediately led Rittenhouse through a back door through the judge’s chambers.
Responding to the verdict, prosecutor Thomas Binger said the jury had spoken.
Rittenhouse’s mother, sitting several feet away from him on a courtroom, gasped with joy and began to cry as the clerk read the series of five not guilty verdicts, hugging the others around her.
Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, who is black and a Democratic candidate for the US Senate, denounced the result.
“Over the past few weeks, many feared the outcome we just saw,” said Barnes. “The presumption of innocence until proven guilty is what we should expect from our justice system, but this standard is not always applied equally. We have seen so many black and brown youths killed, to be put on trial posthumously, when Kyle Rittenhouse’s innocence was practically demanded by the judge.
Right-wing politicians have welcomed the verdict and condemned the case against Rittenhouse.
“All of us who knew what really happened in Kenosha last year assumed that would be the verdict,” tweeted former Republican Gov. of Wisconsin Scott Walker. “Fortunately, the jury thought the same. “
As the result neared, Governor Tony Evers pleaded for calm and said 500 members of the National Guard would be ready to take up their service in Kenosha if necessary.
Rittenhouse was 17 when he moved from his Antioch, Ill., Home to Kenosha after businesses in the town were ransacked and burned down in the shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, by a white policeman.
Carrying a weapon that authorities say was illegally purchased for miner Rittenhouse, he joined other armed citizens in what he said was an effort to protect property and provide medical assistance.
Onlookers and drone footage captured most of the frenzied chain of events that followed: Rittenhouse killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, then gunned down protester Anthony Huber, 26, and injured protester Gaige Grosskreutz, today 28 years old.
Prosecutors described Rittenhouse as an “aspiring soldier” who had gone looking for trouble that night and was responsible for creating a dangerous situation by pointing his rifle at protesters.
But Rittenhouse testified, “I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself.
Breaking down sobs at one point, he told the jury that he opened fire after Rosenbaum chased him and grabbed his gun. He said he feared his rifle would be pulled out and used to kill him.
Huber was later killed after hitting Rittenhouse in the head or neck with a skateboard, and Grosskreutz was shot dead after pointing his gun at Rittenhouse.
The case was part of an extraordinary confluence of trials that reflected the deep racial divide in the United States: in Georgia, three white men are on trial for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, while in Virginia, a trial is pending. in a lawsuit regarding the murderous rally of white supremacists held in Charlottesville in 2017.
The exact racial makeup of Rittenhouse’s jury was unclear as jurors were not asked about their race in court.
The bloodshed in Kenosha took place over a summer of sometimes violent protests sparked across the United States by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other cases involving the use of force by police against blacks.
While some Americans condemned Rittenhouse as a vigilante, some on the right hailed him as a hero who exercised his Second Amendment gun rights and tried to end lawlessness.
Then-President Donald Trump said it appeared Rittenhouse had been “attacked very violently”. Supporters donated more than $ 2 million for his legal defense.
Rittenhouse had also been charged with possession of a dangerous weapon by someone under the age of 18, a misdemeanor which appeared likely to lead to a conviction. But the judge dismissed the charge before jury deliberations after the defense argued that Wisconsin law did not apply to the long-barreled rifle used by Rittenhouse.
Schroeder’s handling of the trial has attracted attention on several occasions, most notably when he applauded Army veterans on Veterans Day just before a defense witness who had been in the military was on the point of testifying. The judge also let Rittenhouse himself pull the jurors’ numbers from a raffle drum to define the last 12 who deliberated.
Video and testimony from some of the prosecution’s own witnesses appeared to support Rittenhouse’s claim of self-defense.
Witnesses described Rosenbaum as “hyperaggressive” and said he dared others to shoot him and threatened to kill Rittenhouse earlier that night. A videographer testified that Rosenbaum rushed for the gun just before it was shot, and a pathologist said his injuries seemed to indicate his hand was above the barrel.
Additionally, Rosenbaum’s fiancee revealed he was on medication for bipolar disorder and depression. Rittenhouse’s lawyers called Rosenbaum “crazy.”
Some civil rights activists saw a double racial standard in the way the white shooter was treated.
On the night of the shooting, law enforcement officers saw Rittenhouse and other armed people in the streets despite a curfew and gave them bottled water. An officer heard over the loudspeaker, “We like you guys.”
Later, amid the uproar, Rittenhouse managed to cross a police line with his gun slung and was not arrested that night.
Forliti reported from Minneapolis, Bauer from Madison, Wisconsin. Associated Press editors Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan, and Todd Richmond in Madison contributed to this story.
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