Kyle Rittenhouse found not guilty: Facts vs. fiction

This Friday, Kyle Rittenhouse was found “not guilty” on all charges related to the shooting of three people in Kenosha, Wisconsin during the summer protests and riots of 2020. Despite the trial being fully televised and the event being captured on camera from multiple angles and sources, a good amount of misinformation has surrounded the trial and the facts of the case. This article will aim to dispel some of the rumors that have caused tension in what is an otherwise clear-cut case, albeit with important implications.
Firstly, President Joe Biden did not call Rittenhouse a “white supremacist” during the trial. This rumor comes from a tweet in September of 2020 where Joe Biden accuses former President Donald Trump of refusing to condemn white supremacist groups during the Presidential debate. Biden stated, “There’s no other way to put it: the President of the United States refused to disavow white supremacists on the debate stage last night” and accompanied his statement with a 50-second clip which included a compilation of right-wing protests and riots from across the country that had taken place in the last few years. A picture of Rittenhouse was included in this clip, but did not imply that he was a white supremacist; rather, it was an example of the right-wing violence that had taken place.
Secondly, Rittenhouse was not carrying his firearm illegally, nor did he purchase the firearm illegally. This charge was officially thrown out in court by the judge after the prosecution themselves agreed. Kyle did not technically buy the gun himself; it was bought by a friend who drove him to Kenosha that night. When Kyle turned 18, he was planning on buying it from his friend, as Illinois law bars a 17-year-old from purchasing or owning a firearm. While Wisconsin law does say that “Any person under 18 years of age who possesses or goes armed with a dangerous weapon is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor,” the statute then continues to say, “This section applies only to a person under 18 years of age who possesses or is armed with a rifle or a shotgun if the person is in violation of s. 941.28.” The statute of s. 941.28 describes the minimum length that a gun barrel may be to apply this charge. Short barrel rifles are considered more dangerous, as they are easier to conceal, much like how handgun restrictions are tighter than rifle restrictions. Simply put, Rittenhouse’s gun was not short enough for this law to apply.
Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, the trial was not an argument about the use of self-defense. The idea that Rittenhouse was in danger and used deadly force against attackers was hardly a point of contention during the trial. Both the prosecution and defense witnesses all agreed with the defense that Rittenhouse was in a dangerous, possibly life-threatening situation when he fired his gun. The point of the trial was whether or not self-defense should apply when you are the cause of the danger. Thomas Binger, one assistant district attorney assigned to this case, repeated his main point multiple times throughout the trial, “You cannot claim self defense against a danger you create.” This was the main disagreement of the trial: whether or not Rittenhouse created his own bad situation, and if he is allowed to kill, in self-defense, those whom he provoked. Ultimately, the jury decided that his use of self-defense was legal in that context.
While much of the Rittenhouse case is fairly cut-and-dry, the implications that the ruling has on American society is more nuanced. Many have pointed out the differences in how the Kyle Rittenhouse case was handled as opposed to cases where people of color are jailed for decades on non-violent drug charges, or in some cases killed before they have the chance to have a fair trial. Kyle Rittenhouse had just about every benefit available to him to clear his name. Namely, he was able to afford bail due to online supporters and have competent legal support due to his well-off family. Many of these benefits are not afforded to those living in areas with less economic opportunity. While Kyle Rittenhouse may not be an example of the justice system failing, it stands out as an example of how our system can work for you if you belong to a certain demographic and have the right kind of family and community support.

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