I won’t offer a legal critique of the jury verdict which acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse today. I didn’t follow the trial closely. It seemed too depressing a thing to devote mental energy towards, mostly because my intuition was that this would be the ultimate result regardless.
In light of that, I cannot speak to any specifics about the prosecution’s or the defense’s case and, apart from a few lowlights shared on social media regarding what appeared to be pretty biased and unprofessional conduct by the trial judge, I cannot speak to his specific rulings with any sort of authority. There are cases in which obviously culpable people should be found not guilty due to the state’s failure to prove its case. There are likewise cases where people whose guilt is in serious question are nonetheless convicted for a number of reasons. The legal specifics matter and I did not pay attention to the legal specifics here, so what follows is not a legal opinion. It’s a moral one.
Whatever specific evidence and defenses were presented at trial, Rittenhouse had no legitimate business being on the streets of Kenosha that night. He was there because he wanted to be a vigilante and because he valued his cop/solider fantasies more than he valued human life. He was there because he wanted to shoot people, he hoped he’d have the chance to shoot people, and he, in fact, shot three people, killing two of them. Whatever “necessity” he and his supporters cite for pulling the trigger multiple times that night would never have arisen if he had not willingly and irresponsibly inserted himself into a dangerous situation. None of the people who died that night would’ve been killed if Rittenhouse had any respect for the rule of law and the rights of his fellow human beings.
Rittenhouse’s acquittal may or may not have been legally justified based on how the trial was conducted or the evidence which did or did not make its way to the jury. But make no mistake, the result is an injustice. One which vindicates and encourages irresponsible vigilantism. Particularly white vigilantism, the sort of which is practiced by militias and gangs like those in Kenosha on that night last summer. The sort of vigilantes whom overwhelmingly white police forces openly welcome onto the same streets from which protesters exercising their Constitutional rights are routinely driven via state-sanctioned violence.
Kyle Rittenhouse may not be legally responsible for the deaths of those people. But he is responsible for their deaths in every other way that matters. And the system which allowed him to walk out of court a free man today has ensured that there will be more Kyle Rittenhouses, and more death in their wake, in the future.