A jury has found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts after he fatally shot two people and injured another amid protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 when unrest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake erupted in August 2020, testified that he fired his AR-style rifle at four people, including one unidentified man he did not hit, in self defense. The jury agreed.
The verdict came after a turbulent trial, during which prosecutor Thomas Binger and Judge Bruce Schroeder sparred over acceptable lines of questioning. In a particularly intense exchange last week, Schroeder chastised Binger for referencing a video that the judge had previously disallowed at the trial. He also reprimanded Binger for questioning Rittenhouse's past refusal to talk about the case--the judge suggested that the exchange could interfere with the defendant's constitutional right to remain silent. Binger's questions led the defense to request a mistrial, which Schroeder rejected.
Rittenhouse was part of a group of armed civilians who said that they were protecting private businesses amid the unrest in Kenosha after the police shooting of Jacob Blake. After police attempting to enforce a curfew pushed protesters from the city's Civic Center Park toward the nearby armed civilians, the two groups clashed, and Rittenhouse shot three people in the resulting chaos.
Rittenhouse broke down in tears on the stand as he described the moments leading up to his shooting of Joseph Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum, who was unarmed, had chased Rittenhouse and thrown a plastic bag at him. At the same time, someone nearby had discharged a handgun. Rittenhouse said he knew his assailant was unarmed but that he feared Rosenbaum would take his rifle and use it to kill him and others.
A group of people chased Rittenhouse as he fled the scene of the first shooting. Rittenhouse then stumbled to the ground. Video shows 26-year-old Anthony Huber apparently hitting Rittenhouse with a skateboard before Rittenhouse shot him in the chest, killing him. Rittenhouse also shot Gaige Grosskreutz in the arm after Grosskreutz pointed a gun at him. "I didn't do anything wrong," Rittenhouse said under cross examination. "I defended myself."
The divisive case, and today's verdict, will certainly contribute to the ongoing and thorny national conversation around the right to carry guns in public, the spate of state stand-your-ground laws, and in what circumstances a person can rightly claim they killed in self defense. It could also lead to further public protests in Kenosha and other cities.
Rittenhouse was acquitted on five felony charges: first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety. He had also faced a misdemeanor charge for possessing a dangerous weapon as a minor, but Schroeder dismissed that count prior to closing arguments, pointing to poorly drafted language in Wisconsin's statutes.