The Ridiculous Rittenhouse Verdict Causes Furious Reactions

Ethan Chun

Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenager from Antioch, Illinois, was charged with five different accounts of first-degree murder, one account of possessing a dangerous weapon while under the age of 18, and failure to comply with a state or local government’s emergency order. On November 19, 2021, his verdict was announced and Rittenhouse, a murderer of two men and wounding another, was declared not guilty of all accounts with all charges dropped.

On August 23, 2020, a black man, Jacob S. Blake was shot in the back seven times by police officer Rusten Shesky in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rallies, protests, marches, and riots were sparked in the city where Blake was shot. Proceeding these events, a civilian “call to arms” by a right-wing city official was published on Facebook and distributed by Alex Jones on his right-wing conspiracy theory and fake news website, InfoWars. Within a day, groups of armed militant civilians began patrolling the streets. Among these armed civilians was Kyle Rittenhouse who drove 20 miles from his home in Antioch, Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin where Rittenhouse’s friend, Dominick Black, gave him an illegally purchased AR-15. Both set out for the streets to, in Rittenhouse’s words, “protect businesses and help people.” The following night was a chaotic mess. Armed militant civilians, wandered the streets of Kenosha despite both Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian and County Sheriff David Beth expressing their disapproval of armed citizens wandering the streets. Also despite city officials’ discontent, police on the ground showed support for the armed civilians.

Rittenhouse shot three people, killing two and wounding another. In a chaotic series of events, the first victim, Joseph Rosenbaum, was shot. Rosenbaum was a homeless man with a criminal record of sexual assault and was bipolar. According to Law Officer, “Rosenbaum was a registered sex offender and he was on the Wisconsin sex offender registry for an Arizona child molestation case.” According to Reuters, Kariann Swart, Rosenbaum’s fiancee, testified “[Rosenbaum] could not fill his prescriptions because the pharmacy close to where they were staying was boarded up due to the chaos in Kenosha.” Rosenbaum had no access to medication, and by all accounts, was not well that night. Carrying only underwear and deodorant, basic supplies that were given to him from the hospital, Rosenbaum chased Rittenhouse and allegedly attempted to grab the AR-15 out of Rittenhouse’s hands. During the trial, Rittenhouse testified he heard someone tell Rosenbaum to “get him and kill him.” Despite knowing Rosenbaum was unarmed, Rittenhouse aimed his rifle in the direction of Rosenbaum. Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum four times, resulting in his death. Rittenhouse was chased by a following crowd with them yelling phrases like “Get him!” One protester, Anthony Huber, was armed with a skateboard and struck Rittenhouse with it. Rittenhouse fatally shot Huber in the chest. Protestor Gaige Grosskreutz approached Rittenhouse while armed with a Glock pistol. Although his permit had recently expired, he pointed his handgun towards Rittenhouse believing Rittenhouse was an active shooter. Rittenhouse shot Grosskreutz in the arm and wounded him. The next day, Rittenhouse turned himself in after being urged to by his mother.

The subsequent trial was a disaster. A 17-year old crossing the state line to participate in a militia with an illegally purchased rifle is a clear problem. Rittenhouse was being charged for five different accounts of first-degree murder, unlawful possession of a firearm while underage, and failure to comply with the state or local government’s orders. But between both prosecutorial errors and extremely odd decisions from the presiding judge, Bruce Schroeder, the most important issue was dropped. The trial was no longer about if Kyle Rittenhouse was a murderer of two but now if he felt his life was in danger. Ultimately, the jury decided Kyle Rittenhouse acted in self-defense and he was dropped of all charges.

The trial was a deranged circus with no beneficial take away from the shooting, the trial, or the verdict. At best it highlights the total ineffectiveness of our legal system at addressing something as critical as to whether or not a child should be armed in the middle of a protest. The trial was a bizarre example of how a trial should not be conducted. The prosecution was insufficiently prepared to make their argument with their star witness, Gaige Grosskreutz, ultimately hurting their case. In Grosskreutz’s testimony, he testified he was carrying his handgun, which his conceal-carry permit had expired at the time of the Kenosha unrest shooting, but he was unaware of its expiration. Grosskreutz also admitted to pointing his gun towards Rittenhouse and said, “I was never trying to kill the defendant. In that moment, I was trying to preserve my own life. But doing so while also taking the life of another is not something that I’m capable of or comfortable doing.” During cross-examination, Grosskreutz’s Glock pistol was heavily emphasized because he was pointing it towards Rittenhouse and Rittenhouse’s actions would be considered self-defense. During the trial, the defense made an argument by zooming in on a digital picture changing the content of that picture. 

“James Armstrong, a senior forensic imaging specialist with the Wisconsin State Crime Lab, acknowledged on the stand Thursday that enlarging an image requires the addition of pixels. But prosecutors said the software Armstrong used is widely accepted – as is the method he used to enlarge the photos,” according to ABC news. 

Nobody, especially Judge Bruce Schroeder, understood the technicality of such a high-profile case. For such an important case, Judge Schroder acted so far out of the norm. He disrupted Rittenhouse’s illegal possession of a gun based on a misinterpreted hunting loophole. Since Rittenhouse participated in “legal hunting” on the streets of Kenosha, he was dropped from the illegal gun charge. Judge Schroeder also made an alarming amount of strange and vague racist statements and jokes. 

“I hope that Asian food isn’t coming…isn’t on one of those boats from Long Beach Harbor,” said Judge Bruce Schroeder during the trial.

Judge Schroeder also refused to let the defense refer to the people who were shot as “victims,” but “rioters, looters, and arsonists” was reasonable. He allowed jurors to take home legal instructions and let Rittenhouse personally select random jurors to disqualify. Jurors are meant to remain unbiased throughout the case with decisions only being influenced by the facts, evidence, and opinion brought up by the prosecution and defense. Both events hadn’t impacted the verdict, but it is still unaccommodating it occurred. The presiding judge of the trial, Bruce Schroeder, had a clear biased opinion over the trial that formed a fundamentally defective verdict.

The Rittenhouse trial was a high-profile case that was extremely flawed, but it wasn’t the first. Another high-profile case with clear prosecutorial errors was the trial for OJ Simpson. Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. Crucial evidence for the case was ignored for the sake of forcing a verdict. The Rittenhouse trial highlights the total ineffectiveness of our legal system, how a trial shouldn’t be conducted, and how easily influenced the judicial system is to force a verdict. If a teenager is capable of crossing state borders, participating in an armed militia, killing two victims, and wounding another while being able to walk out not guilty of any charges, then the judicial system is clearly futile.