Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty of all charges Friday for shooting three men, killing two of them, during a protest against police brutality. Charges against him for the incident included reckless homicide, intentional homicide and recklessly endangering safety, for which he pleaded self-defense.
In August 2020, residents of Kenosha, Wisconsin came together to protest after a white police officer had shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, while responding to a report of domestic disturbance. Rittenhouse said he went to Kenosha to help protect property during the protest. While there, he killed two men and injured one with a semi-automatic rifle.
18-year-old Rittenhouse pleaded in court, “I didn’t do anything wrong… I didn’t want to have to kill anybody that night.”
Treasurer of the Wrongful Convictions Club Alyssa Delarosa, who had been following the Rittenhouse trial, was not surprised when the verdict came out and said she knew there was a good chance Rittenhouse would be acquitted.
“There was so many early indicators that Rittenhouse would be acquitted given the judges’ not so discreet bias in favor of Rittenhouse,” said Delarosa, a senior studying psychology. “There’s this whole 50% of people that created this delusion of him being innocent.”
Video evidence showed Rittenhouse being chased by three men at the protest. The defense argued that they provoked Rittenhouse to use his weapon in self-defense. Of the three men Rittenhouse shot, only one was armed according to NPR. Another tried to hit Rittenhouse with a skateboard after he shot an unarmed man.
The weapon used by Rittenhouse, a Wesson AR-style- automatic, was illegally purchased due to him being underage at the time of the protest. Although he was charged with possession of a dangerous weapon under 18, the charges were previously dropped due to the barrel being longer than 16 inches, which is permitted under state law.
In a statement from President Joe Biden released Friday, he said while the verdict may cause anger and concern, the public “must acknowledge that the jury has spoken.” The president urged people to express their views peacefully, without violence or destruction.
Reactions to the verdict have varied tremendously around the board, the verdict sparked many protests throughout the U.S, where participants expressed their frustration and sadness of the outcome.
“I think the main reason why so many people are upset by this is because if Kyle Rittenhouse was not white, this would not be how the verdict played out,” said Nivea Krishnan, senator for Undergraduate Student Government.
Krishnan, a sophomore studying public policy and economics, said she was also not surprised by the verdict and that she wished she “had faith in the justice system to do its job and to hold people accountable.”
Both Delarosa and Krishnan believe that the verdict supports the idea that white men are unfairly favored in court. Delarosa said that the verdict “sends a strong message” and reaffirms her belief that “the US Justice System is a white supremacist system.”
“It just plays into the larger narrative of white men being able to claim self defense and white men being able to get away with so much more than people of color because the justice system just inherently values white men claims above other people of color specifically,” Krishnan said.
The inequalities in the justice system have been talked about even by celebrities. Actor George Takei was vocal online about Rittenhouse’s acquittal.
“Justice denied is a body blow to our national psyche. On trial was not only a killer, but a system that continues to kill,” Takei tweeted Friday. “Today that system defeated true justice, once again. But mark these words: We will never stop fighting for what is right and just.”