Kyle Rittenhouse’s Acquittal and the Flawed US Legal System

Written by: Noor

Edited by: Martin

Visual by: Ethan

On August 25, 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old White male, drove 30 minutes to Kenosha, Wisconsin to attend a protest over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29 year old Black male who was shot by a policeman in his car, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Kyle Rittenhouse was at the protest to “protect a car dealership” that had been damaged from protests the night prior. He brought with him an AR-15 Semi-Automatic Rifle that was illegally owned due to him being a minor at the time. After being approached by one man who tried to grab the gun off him and another who chased after him believing he was an active shooter, Kyle Rittenhouse killed both of them and injured another from multiple bullets fired. Rittenhouse claimed that he acted in self defense to protect himself from what he considered to be people threatening his safety. Kyle was eventually arrested and his court case became an issue of great debate. It became an even larger issue, last week, after his acquittal from all charges. Kyle Rittenhouse walked away uncharged and the events that surrounded the trail  demonstrated clear biases in the US legal system. It also showed many that a legal system can never truly please everyone and that ultimately the decision of someone’s innocence or guilt is decided by one judge and a jury.  

As mentioned, the debate over his innocence became a large issue of controversy between those who were for and those who were against Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse’s supporters and opponents held and continue to hold drastically opposing views on the level of repercussions that Kyle should have faced. His opposers remained adamant that Rittenhouse should have served a sentence to the full extent of the law, while his supporters believed that Rittenhouse should not have even been taken to court in the first place. A drastic contrast in opinions as seen with this case was likely going to end badly for one group of people and unfortunately for Rittenhouse’s opposers, they were displeased with the outcome. These contrasting opinions stem primarily from beliefs on gun laws and regulations, particularly, in regards to where, when, and how they should be used. 

Within these opponents and supporters are individuals from different backgrounds who have different reasons for supporting or not supporting Rittenhouse. For the most part, people supporting Kyle Rittenhouse believed he operated fully within his second amendment rights and had no basis for prosecution. However, for minority ethnicities, the large majority of whom believed Kyle was guilty, this court case was about more than just another careless shooter. For many minorities, this court case represented the bitter reality of unassailable biases in the judicial system. The unfortunate reality is that the US Judicial System has juries and even judges that have been identified on numerous occasions of prejudicing against ethnic minority populations and favoring White populations This is a major problem that must be resolved as soon as possible in order to give everyone the same opportunity and platform to prove their innocence, as the legal system states.  

With this case, there were also multiple problems regarding legal power and quarrelling between different media networks. Kyle Rittenhouse, in all respects, had a fantastic legal team. Acquitting a man who was filmed killing two people with an illegally owned semi-automatic rifle is no easy task. However, his fantastic legal team was not the product of a coincidence but rather over 2 million dollars worth of donations by highly influential figures, the majority of whom remained anonymous. This legal team was able to easily overpower the far less funded prosecution who were representing people that were painted as mentally unstable criminals by the well funded defense. Media networks who were supporting Kyle Rittenhouse also continued to depict the victims of Kyle Rittenhouse as opportunists only further creating rife between Kyle Rittenhouse’s supporters and opposers. 

A question many people asked after Rittenhouse’s acquittal was, would Kyle Rittenhouse have been acquitted if he wasn’t white?There have been countless, far less serious cases, regarding trials of minorities that have resulted in far more dire consequences. In addition, six out of 10 people in US prisons are still awaiting trial, the majority of whom are minorities. There have also been countless cases of trials of ethnic minorities with far less evidence that have led to  the defendant being prosecuted to the fullest extent. The case of Walter Macmillian, a man who spent six straight years on death row for a murder he had been framed for, only to be proven innocent when police coercion and purjery were uncovered is an ideal example of minority legal prejudice. It could be argued that these cases where defendants were not given the correct sentences are mere blips in a judicial system that faces millions of cases at a time. However, any defendant prosecuted incorrectly is a failure of the judicial system whether they are White or a Minority. 

Kyle Rittenhouse and the events that surround his trial are key examples of how a judicial system will always displease one side of a case. It is important to consider that even if Kyle Rittenhouse operated in self defense, he did not have to kill both the victims in the unnecessarily gruesome manner he did and could have threatened them or shot bullets in the air or in their direction instead. First degree murder was not neccesary for self defense in his specific circumstance and a direct head shot as was done to Joesph Rosenbaum, the first victim, was even more unnecesary. Kyle Rittenhouse’s complete acquittal was a failure of the judicial system that continues to prejudice minorities and favour white or wealthier population. 

Works Cited

Butler, Paul. “Opinion | Kyle Rittenhouse’s $2 Million Legal Funds Won His Case. Most Defendants Can’t Afford That Quality of Aid.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 24 Nov. 2021, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/11/21/kyle-rittenhouses-2-million-legal-funds-won-his-case-most-defendants-cant-afford-that-quality-aid/.

NBC Chicago. “Shootings, Arrest, Trial and More: The Kyle Rittenhouse Story Explained.” NBC Chicago, NBC Chicago, 15 Nov. 2021, http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/shootings-arrest-trial-and-more-the-kyle-rittenhouse-story-explained/2684756/.

Person, and Brendan Pierson Mike Scarcella. “Rittenhouse Prosecution Faced Difficult Task: Proving a Negative.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 20 Nov. 2021, http://www.reuters.com/world/us/rittenhouse-prosecution-faced-difficult-task-proving-negative-2021-11-19/.

“Walter McMillian.” Equal Justice Initiative, 23 Jan. 2020, eji.org/cases/walter-mcmillian/.

“Why We Need Pretrial Reform.” Pretrial Justice Institute, 10 June 2019, http://www.pretrial.org/get-involved/learn-more/why-we-need-pretrial-reform/.

Williams, Paige. “Kyle Rittenhouse, American Vigilante.” The New Yorker, 26 June 2021, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/07/05/kyle-rittenhouse-american-vigilante.Willis, Haley, et al. “Tracking the Suspect in the Fatal Kenosha Shootings.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 27 Aug. 2020, http://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/27/us/kyle-rittenhouse-kenosha-shooting-video.html.