Kenosha, Wes. (CBS) – Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges Friday, after being tried for the shooting of three people, killing two of them, in Kenosha last year.
Rittenhouse broke down in tears, and nearly collapsed when a court clerk declared that a jury had found him not guilty on all counts. He had faced five counts, including first-degree reckless murder, first-degree reckless endangerment, first-degree premeditated murder, and attempted first-degree murder. He faced a life sentence if convicted.
There was no doubt that Rittenhouse had shot anyone, and the trial was reduced to whether he was acting legitimately in self-defense. He was charged in connection with the August 2020 shooting of three people during protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Hooper and wounded Gage Grosskreutz during widespread civil unrest in Kenosha after the police shooting of Blake.
Hopper’s fiancée stood praying at the entrance to the courtroom while she and other relatives of the men named Rittenhouse waited to hear the verdict.
Rittenhouse began to cry immediately after the full sentence was announced, fell forward and briefly placed his head on the defense table, slipping partly from his chair, his legs trembling as he wept. His lawyer rubbed Rittenhouse’s shoulders and told him to breathe as his family cried too.
His mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, was panting with joy and starting to cry, hugging the others around her after the sentence.
Meanwhile, the families of the dead shook their heads and started crying.
The jury remained anonymous throughout the trial, and Schroeder told them that they had no obligation to speak publicly now that their assignment had been completed, but that they might do so if they wished.
“The jury, which represents our community, delivered its verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case,” Chief Prosecutor Thomas Binger said. While we are disappointed with the judgment, it must be respected. We are grateful to the jury members for their tireless and thoughtful deliberations. The Kenosha community has struggled a lot over the past 15 months, yet we remain resilient and strong. We ask members of our community to continue to express their opinions and feelings about this ruling in a civil and peaceful manner.”
Meanwhile, a relatively small crowd gathered outside the courtroom at the beginning of the day gradually as news of the verdict spread, and dozens of people gathered on the court staircase in the afternoon.
Some Rittenhouse supporters chanted “Second Amendment” after he was acquitted, while supporters of the men who were shot lamented his acquittal.
The acquittal came after nearly 26 hours of deliberation over four days. Rittenhouse’s lawyers are expected to discuss the ruling later on Friday at their offices in Racine. Prosecutors said they do not plan to speak to the media after the ruling.
The jury heard more than 30 witnesses within two weeks of testifying.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, took the podium during the trial, and testified that he was acting in self-defence, never wanting to kill anyone.
“I did nothing wrong. I stood up for myself,” Rittenhouse said.
Prosecutors had argued that Rittenhouse incited violence that night, as a reckless guard put himself in a position where he did not belong.
“You can’t claim self-defense against a danger you create. That’s critical here. If you’re the one threatening others, you lose the right to claim self-defense,” Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger said during closing arguments.
However, some prosecution witnesses bolstered Rittenhouse’s claims in self-defense.
For example, veteran Ryan Balch, who said he was with Rittenhouse part of the night and also took care of an AR-15 rifle, told jurors Rosenbaum threatened to kill them. Photographer Richie McGuinness also testified that Rosenbaum began chasing Rittenhouse, pining for his shotgun. Grosskreutz himself also admitted that he had a loaded revolver during his confrontation with Rittenhouse, intended to shoot him when Rittenhouse shot him, although Grosskreutz insisted that he did not intentionally aim the gun at Rittenhouse, and would not have shot him.
Before deliberations began Tuesday morning, the field of 18 jurors was cleared to 12, after their numbers had been placed on pieces of paper in a courtroom lottery cup, and Rittenhouse himself chose six pieces of paper that were used to identify the alternate jurors. . The alternate jury members are three white males and three white females, leaving the only person of color on the jury of seven women and five men who will decide the verdict.
During the second day of deliberations, the jury spent about 45 minutes reviewing video evidence from the case. Problems surrounding the video prompted the defense to again demand that the trial be cancelled.
Prosecutors said jurors should be able to watch any of the videos of the shooting as many times as they want, but defense attorneys have objected to allowing a jury to watch a drone video of Rittenhouse shooting and killing Joseph Rosenbaum, and the defense team is seeking a wrongful trial on top of this Video, the plaintiffs provided them with a low-quality copy of the video, which is indecent.
“We got a compressed version, which was not of the quality they had,” said defense attorney Cory Chiravese. “It doesn’t seem fair to me.”
This was the second call for a bad trial, which prosecutors dismissed as “inappropriate.”
Prosecutors said they sent the defense the same copy of the video they received, which they believe was transferred from the attorney general’s Apple phone to the defense attorney’s Android phone, and the file was compressed during transmission. When both sides later learned that the defense had received a lower-quality version of the video, defense prosecutors submitted a higher-quality version.
Schroeder said he would allow jurors to view the drone video if they wanted to see it, but he also wants to hear from expert witnesses outside the jury presence regarding the dispute over the quality of the video received by the defense team, and if there are problems with the video handling, that could lead to the collapse of the case on appeal.
“I’ve been concerned about this since the beginning, and more so now,” Schroeder said.
After Rittenhouse’s acquittal, requests for an annulment of the trial are now moot.
Despite being a mere misdemeanor charge, possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 appears likely to lead to the conviction of Rittenhouse, who was only 17 when he was carrying an AR-15 in Kenosha on August 25 / August 2020, and used it to shoot three men, killing two of them during a chaotic night of protests in Kenosha over the police shooting of Jacob BlakeAnd
Defense attorneys argued that Wisconsin law has an exception allowing 17-year-olds to carry firearms openly if they are not short-barreled rifles, with barrels less than 16 inches and an overall length of less than 26 inches.
Schroeder said that Wisconsin law is poorly written, and that Rittenhouse’s shorter rifle barrel size meant he did not violate that law. Although prosecutors said they disagreed with the judge’s interpretation of the law, they conceded that Rittenhouse’s weapon was not a short-barreled rifle, and Schroeder dismissed the charge.