Why Kyle Rittenhouse is likely to walk free

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Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old defendant is accused to have murdered three people in Kenosha back in 2020. Rittenhouse in Kenosha County courthouse.

Longxuan (Barry) Yao, Editor-in-Chief

Yesterday was another pivotal day in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who shot three men in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last summer following anti-police violence protests and riotings. Rittenhouse was charged with homicide for killing Jason Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and seriously wounding a man named Gaige Grosskreutz. In the media, Rittenhouse has been portrayed as a vigilante, as someone who is essentially hunting other human beings, but Rittenhouse claimed that he went to Kenosha to “protect store owners from looting and violence; he was attacked first; and that he shot his assailants in self-defence.”

Grosskreutz testified earlier this week and confirmed Rittenhouse’s story, namely that Rittenhouse only fired his weapon after Grosskreutz pointed a gun at him. That moment really put “the ball” in the defence’s court, the prosecution has been widely attacked in the media for allowing that to even happen. 

Therefore, the opportunity to cross-examine Kyle Rittenhouse was vital for the prosecution if it wanted to make its case that he killed three men in cold blood. Rittenhouse broke down when questioned by his own attorneys; on Twitter, the reaction was telling, many accused of “faking those tears.” Of course, I cannot discern whether Rittenhouse’s tears were genuine, but the actions of people who smugly asserted any assumptions to incriminate him are embarrassing.

But the truly embarrassing moment belonged to the prosecution. When it was district assistant attorney Thomas Binger’s turn to cross-examine Kyle Rittenhouse, he chose to focus on the fact that Rittenhouse had “played violent videogames,” drawing a bizarre connection between that and the type of gun Rittenhouse used. Truly, it was an abhorrent line of questioning; there is no evidence that violent video games turn teenage boys into mass-shooter. Anyone who makes this argument contradicts actual research, which found no causal arrow to connect the two elements.

If the prosecution thinks Kyle Rittenhouse is a murderer, it needs to prove that his decision to shoot the three men was not motivated by reasonable fear for his own life. Substantiating that Rittenhouse plays and enjoys Call-of-Duty is simply irrelevant. The prosecutor also tried to argue that Kyle Rittenhouse’s decision to remain silent after the arrest was evidence of his guilt, a proposition so absurd that the judge lost his temper at the attorney.

 The judge is precisely right, the right to remain silent is a fundamental component of due process. Indeed, any person who has been arrested is well-advised to remain silent even if they are innocent. Innocent people can inadvertently slip up and say something that puts them in legal peril, which is why any lawyer who knows anything about the criminal justice system; surely, any mildly informed person about it will tell defendants not to say anything to police or police interrogators. If you are arrested, the only you should say is, “may I speak to my lawyer?”

The defence has asked for a mistrial, which the judge is considering, that might be a mistake on its own because most experts believe the defence is clearly winning the case, that’s due to the prosecution making a series of mistakes, but also because Rittenhouse’s self-defence claim was much more plausible than was reported in the media. In truth, many in the media did not even think that a trial was necessary. 

Without a doubt, this trial has scrambled the brains of occasionally reasonable people. You can actively oppose Rittenhouse’s decision to participate in what was happening in Kenosha; you can hold him morally responsible for getting into trouble and causing controversy, but that is independent of whether he was justified in shooting three people, whom he says, and a considerable amount of evidence supports, were threatening his life. So there is no better example of this sort of cognitive dissonance that this trial has produced than Hakeen Jeffries of New York:

New York representatives Hakeem Jeffries’s tweets. Image compiled by the Patriot.