So the verdict is in, there’s a chance you’re in shock depending on your political leanings and/or level of education regarding the case and the judicial process, and I figure we may as well discuss some of the notable points from the whole affair, but I would caution you to read to the end if the way this starts out offends you.
Also, hey, I’m not dead.
That having been said, let’s begin.
“He drove across state lines!”
Largely irrelevant. Some small argument can be made that it speaks to intent, but it’s a very small argument, given the short distance involved. Gaige Grosskreutz drove further to get there than Kyle Rittenhouse did.
“He had no ties to Kenosha!”
Demonstrably false; he had family, friends, and employment in Kenosha.
“He was carrying the rifle illegally!”
Well, it should have bloody well been illegal, but the Wisconsin legislature are terrible at their jobs and left a loophole that permitted him to do so. Sucks, but that’s reality.
“His mommy drove him!”
Honestly have no idea where this one came from, other than the usual “bad parenting” argument that comes up when a teenager does something inutterably stupid. But she didn’t, for whatever that’s worth.
“The judge was biased!”
Eccentric, certainly, but that’s the peril of having extremely long (or lifetime) appointments of judges; they get to do what they want in their courtrooms, and there’s not much anyone can do about it. Though it’s important to note that the alternative to long term appointments is an increased influence of public opinion and/or political opinion on judicial decisions.
Short version there is that if you think tenure for professors is a good thing, you should be on board with eccentric judges.
As for bias, judge Schroeder does have, according to lawyers working within his jurisdiction, a small but noticeable bias towards defendants. Big enough to sway the jury… unlikely. But it does lead into the next two points.
“The jury was rigged!”
The jury was chosen the same way that every jury gets chosen, the only variable in this case being that the judge allowed Rittenhouse to pull the slips of the alternates rather than having the state do it. A policy that, by his own account, he has practiced in most cases for the last twenty years, after an incident where the bailiff removed the one black juror from the pool in a trial of a black defendant.
He thought it looked bad for the state to be the ones doing so, and he’s not entirely wrong. The optics are bad, but mostly because people don’t understand how the system works or just assume that it’s all rigged to begin with, and nothing you can do is going to convince them otherwise at this point.
Except putting them on trial and having them declared innocent, I guess.
“The state was denied the right to present evidence!”
Yes it was.
You see, the Walgreens video that was taken two weeks before the shootings, where Rittenhouse muses about having his AR so he could shoot shoplifters, was not technically denied as evidence. The judge, as the prosecutor said while in the process of being lambasted by said judge, had “left the door open” on whether or not that evidence could be presented. But it was the prosecution’s job to get permission first, and not just jump into presenting it, which was the second big no-no moment they willfully launched themselves into during their cross-examination of Rittenhouse, the first being asking him why he’d chosen to exercise his Fifth Amendment rights prior the trial, which is a very big no-no. There is an unknown but likely significant chance that the prosecution screwed themselves on that one, since judges are notoriously fickle, and trying to do an end-run around a ruling is a good way to get on their bad side.
As for the pictures and videos of him celebrating at a bar, bear in mind that he’d been in jail for over two months prior to that event. Yes, he’s wearing a t-shirt that says “Free As Fuck”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re happy you killed two people, it just implies that you’re happy to not be in prison.
“He went there looking to start a fight!”
Unknown. Frankly unknowable. We may have some slight understanding of Rittenhouse’s state of mind before and after the event, but we do not and cannot know what he was thinking the night of.
Being prepared for a fight doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re actively looking for one; again, Gaige Grosskreutz, the victim who lived, also went to the event prepared for violence. If we make preparedness the marker of intent, we open the door to a great many evils best left locked up.
“He could have just run away!”
He did. He is, in fact, on camera running away. Repeatedly.
“He shouldn’t have been there in the first place!”
Correct. He willingly put himself into a dangerous situation, but the same can be said of literally every single person present at the event. The minute it moves from protest to riot, it is incumbent upon you to leave.
“He’s a hero!”
The fuck he is. He’s an ignorant child who did something incredibly stupid seemingly because he wanted to be a hero. Of course, the last three men he shot at, killing one, were also trying to be heroes. Which leads to our next point…
“He was just trying to do the right thing!”
The evidence points to yes, but there’s a couple key caveats here that a lot of people haven’t talked about much.
Assuming he did go there to do the right thing, did he need to be armed to do so?
Under the circumstances upon which he found himself that night, did he need a gun? It seems possible, even likely, that without it he would have been at the risk of grave bodily harm at the hands of Rosenbaum.
Would he have put himself in those circumstances if he hadn’t had the gun? What would he have done differently if he hadn’t been armed? Did he think that carrying the gun would ward off potential aggressors, or did its presence identify him to the crowd as the other?
Those are important questions to ponder, and if you think the answer is simple, you may well buy into this next point of…
“This is why we need good guys with guns!”
Hah. Haha. HAHAHAHAHAHA.
No. A million times no. This is the Platonic Form of why the “good guys with guns” concept is radically flawed; Gaige Grosskreutz was also a “good guy with a gun”. And he got shot after he pointed his gun at the one you think is the good guy, while trying to be the good guy, thinking he was the good guy, and if that whole line of reasoning seems vague and circular that’s because it is.
If you’ve got a gun and someone storms into the room and starts shooting, yes, there is a pretty good chance you can prevent or at least curtail a massacre. But the instant you draw your firearm, you have to be aware that someone else might see the situation and think that you’re the one shooting and the other guy is the one trying to stop the massacre.
Also, mass shootings of that nature are exceptionally rare, and while they have occasionally been stopped by a “good guy with a gun”, statistically it’s not particularly relevant. It’s like parents who buy bulletproof backpacks for their children, then complain that their kids aren’t safe, and that they don’t feel safe, and the only one of those things that is true is the last one, probably because their parents are buying them a bulletproof backpack.
“He was guilty/innocent and he deserves to fry/go free!”
This is why we have trials. To determine guilt or innocence. There is no viable alternative to the process that isn’t subject to even more manipulation than the one we’re currently using.
Much like democracy itself, it’s a terrible system, but every other option is worse.