On August 25, 2020 Gaige Grosskreutz, Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, and Kyle Rittenhouse attend a protest over the police shooting of a black man named Jacob.
But, the four are not together. Rittenhouse is alone.
Trial testimony provided that Kyle Rittenhouse shot at the three other men and killed two. Only one survived. All three alleged victims are white.
The defense presented evidence that he shot the three men in self-defense as the protest spiraled out of control.
The jury found Rittenhouse not guilty by a 12-0 vote. They applied Wisconsin’s law on self-defense to the evidence presented at trial.
Now, I must stop here. While it is interesting, entertaining, and easy to be an onlooker with an opinion, I did not hear the evidence. I did not see the witnesses when they testified. I was not in court. While streaming trials can be enlightening; there is no substitution to being inside a courtroom during trial.
That is why we have juries.
There are many theories about how a verdict of guilty or not guilty should be determined. None of them are perfect because humans have to ultimately make a decision. Our Founders were divinely inspired to create the best system on Earth.
In order to maintain the right to a fair and impartial jury, we must free jurors from outside influences to the best of our ability. This is becoming much more difficult with the advances in technology.
What is the meaning of “verdict?”
The term “verdict” means “speak the truth.” After days of trial, the jury returned a not guilty verdict on all counts. These jurors were simply fulfilling their duty to serve and render a verdict based on the evidence and law. Jurors are not tasked with bending to political pressure, focusing on protests, or fearing riots based on their decision.
How do riots affect jurors?
Our Founders provided a system whereby an accused could only be convicted by admissible evidence tendered and admitted by a judge. Today, jurors have another concern — riots.
Even though Rittenhouse was acquitted, how many jurors feared for themselves, their family, their property, etc.? What about their concerns with the property of other people who had nothing to do with the case?
The jurors had a reason to fear such consequences. On the evening, of November 19, 2021, protests broke out in several cities across the country. Authorities in Portland, Ore., referred to one incident near the Multnomah County Justice Center as a riot and warned all present to vacate the area or risk being met with force. The Portland Police Bureau said a “significant part of the crowd” was engaging in “violent, destructive behavior” that included breaking windows and throwing objects at officers on the scene.
Protests, both peaceful and otherwise, have spread throughout the country.
The First Amendment
However, there is a lawful way to protest. The First Amendment provides for the right to peacefully assemble. This includes peacefully protesting. Without this critical right, we would live in a society controlled entirely by the government.
But, the key term is “peacefully.” When people are injured, property is destroyed, lives are put into danger, etc., and consequences should follow.
Let’s all work toward keeping the jury system of justice intact.