The Platform

New York Post

Throughout the past year, the Kyle Rittenhouse case has taken center stage in the national debate over race relations, self-defence laws, and the Black Lives Matter movement. The entire case has served as a microcosm of the many issues which America faces today, and has divided people into two distinct camps, one in which he is innocent, and one in which he is guilty. However, with his recent acquittal, it is important to understand the background of the case.

At the time of the shooting, Kyle Rittenhouse was a 17-year-old out-of-state male patrolling the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 17th, 2020 when, in purported self-defence, he killed two men and injured another with a semi-automatic, AR-15 style rifle. He was arrested that night, and on November 19, 2021, a year after the deadly shootings, he was acquitted on all charges, walking out of the courtroom as a free man. Yet now that his trial is over, many people have quickly sought to assign blame and responsibility for his acquittal. To me, there is one party to assign responsibility to, in particular, the prosecution of the case. The prosecutors botched the Rittenhouse case through unprovable congress and displeasing the judge. However, they are not fully at fault for the verdict of the case, as they were unfavorable aspects of the case that were out of their control.

To begin, the prosecutors botched the Rittenhouse case as they levied harsh and unprovable charges against Rittenhouse which made it almost impossible to charge him. First, the prosecution charged him with first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide, and attempted first-degree intentional homicide, along with a host of minor related charges. These charges are among the harshest and hardest-to-prove laws in the United States, requiring large amounts of evidence. Charges of first-degree often require some sort of premeditation, which requires that the defendant acted with foreknowledge and planning of his murder, something which the prosecution simply could not prove. Along with that, the nature of the case made it possible to trump these charges with the simple claim of self-defence, which required less evidence to prove than the murder charges.

Moving on, legal expert Paul. E Bucher, a respected Kenosha-area lawyer, claims the state added a host of unnecessary charges in order to bolster itself and satisfy constituents. I agree with Bucher, as I believe that the prosecution attempted to ride off the momentum of the Black Lives Matter Movement and sought to justify the extremely harsh charges levied through the veneer of racial justice, yet they failed to account for the rather objective and impartial nature of the law. The prosecutors had a clear chance to put the case to rest, and charge him with reckless endangerment and a host of other charges, but failed as they postured too much.

Secondly, the prosecutors botched the Rittenhouse case by running afoul of the judge and the jury multiple times. Throughout the trial, Judge Bruce Schroeder often sparred with the prosecution. In one pivotal moment, the judge expressed frustration with the prosecution, accusing them of purposefully violating his orders, and rebuked them for several minutes, oftentimes raising his voice. This interaction has come to be seen as the epitome of the relationship between the prosecution and Judge Schroder, and helps us understand their tenuous relationship. Another incident occurred when the prosecution reportedly used evidence from outside of the trial, again prompting another passionate rebuke from the judge. Finally, the prosecution seemed to alienate the jury on the final day of deliberations, as they purposefully wasted time, and seemed to alienate the jury with their long and drawn-out closing argument. Along with the harsh charges explained earlier, this tenuous relationship between the prosecution, judge, and jury contributed to the overall verdict, and helped give the advantage to the defense. The prosecution botched the atmosphere of the court, which represented a major part of the final decision.

Finally, although the prosecution’s ineptness contributed greatly to the final verdict, there were factors outside of the prosecution’s control that led to the final decision. For example, Rittenhouse’s performance on the stand was incredible, passionately and emotionally describing the events of that night, and painting the image of a kid just seeking to help restore law and order. This performance moved the jury and outside spectators, and brought a lot of favor onto Rittenhouse’s side. Along with that, many of the witnesses actually spoke in favor of Rittenhouse, suggesting that Rittenhouse actually opened fire in self-defense. These two factors helped the defense, and were outside of the prosecution’s control.

The Kyle Rittenhouse case has been one of the most publicized and talked-about trials in recent memory, and both the prosecution and defense were both under heavy pressure. However, the prosecution’s botching of the case, particularly in the heavy charges they pursued and their shaky relationship with the judge and jury had a substantial impact on the final verdict. However, it is unfair to say that they had all the responsibility for the verdict, as the outstanding performance of Rittenhouse on the stand and the key testimony of witnesses also heavily contributed to the decision. Ultimately, this trial, and its ensuing decision, will be regarded as watershed moments in the Black Lives Matter Movement, self-defence activists, and in the general American memory.

Zain Rahman is a student in Northern Virginia. His areas of interest include foreign policy, economics, and philosophy.