Kyle Rittenhouse acquitted on all counts; gun-control further called into question

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Photo used with permission from Wikipedia Commons

A man in Kenosha, WI, holds sign saying “Free Kyle” days after 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse killed two and wounded one during a police brutality protest last year.

On Nov. 19, defendant Kyle Rittenhouse, an 18-year-old who fatally shot two men and wounded one as a claimed act of “self-defense” at the Kenosha, Wisconsin protests and riots during summer 2020, was found not guilty of homicide and all other charges. 

On Aug. 23, 2020, a Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot and killed by a white police officer, Rusten Sheskey, in Kenosha. Only months after the national protests took place in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the city of Kenosha underwent episodes of looting, arson and property destruction within days of the shooting that killed Blake. Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old at the time, was armed with an AR-15 rifle as he testified to the jury that it was to protect the city from further civil unrest. 

Rittenhouse faced six criminal counts. If he was to be convicted of all charges, the defendant would have had to serve a lifetime in prison. The charges included first-degree reckless homicide with use of a dangerous weapon. The sixth count, possession of a dangerous weapon by an individual who is under 18-years-old, was dropped before both sides began their closing arguments. Twelve of the 20 people selected to hear the case were jurors who decided that the defendant was not guilty. 

Senior Alex Mockensturm said she believed that the defendant would be found innocent of the more severe charges, such as homicide, but “found guilty of some of the lesser charges,” Mockensturm said.

The Wootton High School Activists, a non-partisan club that aims to encourage political advocacy, had its most recent meeting on Dec. 10. The discussion between attendees included conversation of if Rittenhouse should have been viewed as an adult or a juvenile according to what crimes he committed and the extremities.

I think the prosecution could have done a better job at trying to get him indicted and get him charged. I think he knew fully well that his gun would kill and it wasn’t self-defense.”

— Nico D'Orazio

Publicist and social media manager of the club, sophomore Nico D’Orazio, said he is disappointed in the jurors’ decision. “I think the prosecution could have done a better job at trying to get him indicted and get him charged. I think he knew fully well that his gun would kill and it wasn’t self-defense,” D’Orazio said. 

Senior Isra Qadri said she feels that it is clear that the verdict and trial itself did not serve justice to the victims and their families. The trial reinforced her understanding that “many of America’s institutions are built to support and uphold white supremacy,” Qadri said. “He took advantage of our current, broken system to play hero. I never really had faith in our justice system to hope that he would be held fully responsible, but my expectations were lowered even more when the verdict was delivered and he ended up gaining much more than he had before he murdered multiple people.”