Two men arguing outside the court.  (GETTY IMAGES).

Few trials in USA in recent years they have generated so many rough edges. What has the case of Kyle Rittenhouse that divides the country so much?

Inside the courtroom, the 18-year-old was shaking when he heard the jury acquit him of all five charges he was charged with, including intentional murder.

SIGHT: The controversial acquittal in the US of the young man who killed two people during protests for racial justice

He killed two men during the race riots in Wisconsin, but successfully convinced the jury that he only used his semi-automatic weapon because he feared for his life.

Meanwhile, outside the courthouse, cars passed by honking their horns and cheering. Some passengers were coming out of the windows yelling “Free Kyle!” and “We love the Second Amendment!”

Other people were distressed by the verdict: A man collapsed on the steps of the courtroom crying and said that if Rittenhouse had been black, he would have been shot dead.

Here’s why the case sparked such deep emotions.

Self-defense

Rittenhouse’s acquittal depended on the specifics of Wisconsin’s self-defense laws and took into account the young man’s mood at the time of the shooting.

Two men arguing outside the court. (GETTY IMAGES).

The first occurred when Joseph Rosenbaum tried to grab Rittenhouse’s gun. The next two, after two men, one of whom was armed, confronted Rittenhouse after the Rosenbaum shooting.

The law considers whether Mr. Rittenhouse believed that he was in imminent threat of harm, but does not take into account the decisions he made in the previous hours and days that put him in the middle of a volatile situation, with his weapons drawn and his spirits aflame.

The trial could prompt a reassessment of US self-defense laws and whether they sufficiently weigh the totality of circumstances involving the use of lethal force, particularly in a society where restrictions on the possession of firearms are have relaxed.

Until now, the trend has been to expand the right of self-defense in many states through the “castle doctrine” and the laws of Stand Your Gound (“stay where you are” or “stop or shoot”) that give people a presumed right to use force to protect themselves and their homes, rather than backing down in a confrontation.

The split over Rittenhouse’s trial could further fuel the debate over whether those laws go too far, or not enough.

Race

Race is not critical in this case, but for a man it is.

Jacob Blake, who is black, was shot seven times by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020.

A brawl outside of court.  (GETTY IMAGES).
A brawl outside of court. (GETTY IMAGES).

It was that shooting that sparked the violent protests. The policeman is still at his job. Blake said in an interview that if Rittenhouse had been of a different ethnicity, he would have been killed.

Rittenhouse was not arrested immediately after he shot three white men, two of them fatally, despite turning himself in to police.

Black Lives Matter protesters outside court said it is “white privilege” that has even allowed the teenager to get a fair trial.

Controversially, in closing arguments, Rittenhouse defense attorney Mark Richards referenced the Blake shooting saying, “Other people in this community have shot people seven times and it’s been decided it’s okay, and my client has. he did four times in three-quarters of a second to protect his life. “

The trial has also renewed the debate over exactly who is allowed to own guns and then proclaim self-defense when killing someone.

Weapons

The Rittenhouse trial has once again highlighted laws restricting the possession and use of weapons in the United States that vary widely by state and local jurisdiction.

Image of an armed young man on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, identified by the media as Kyle Rittenhouse.  (GETTY IMAGES).
Image of an armed young man on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, identified by the media as Kyle Rittenhouse. (GETTY IMAGES).

Regulations are often less than precise and are the result of intense legislative debates about the types of firearms covered and under what circumstances the laws apply.

One day before closing arguments in the Rittenhouse trial, Judge Bruce Schroeder ordered that one of the charges, violating a state law that prohibits a person under the age of 18 from possessing a “dangerous weapon,” be dropped. because the rifle that the young man was carrying was not prohibited for him.

The decision centered on the length of the firearm’s barrel, which would have been off-limits to Rittenhouse had it been a few inches shorter.

Gun control activists cite this decision as yet another example of the kind of loophole that could be remedied with more uniform national gun laws.

While the Wisconsin 30-year law contains a provision allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to go hunting, they consider the weapon Mr. Rittenhouse was carrying to be clearly “dangerous” in the circumstances in which he used it.

Gun rights activists, on the other hand, have celebrated Rittenhouse’s right to own such weapons and use them to defend himself.

“If it weren’t for 17-year-olds with guns,” tweeted Ohio Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel, “we would still be British subjects.”

Judge

Bruce Schroeder is the longest-serving judge in the Wisconsin state court system. He was appointed by a Democratic governor in 1983 and has won elections for his seat seven times since then, each by an overwhelming margin.

Judge Bruce Schroeder ordered one of the charges dropped, violating a state law that prohibits a person under the age of 18 from possessing a "dangerous weapon."  (GETTY IMAGES).
Judge Bruce Schroeder ordered one of the charges dropped, violating a state law that prohibits a person under the age of 18 from possessing a “dangerous weapon.” (GETTY IMAGES).

Perhaps it was inevitable that the judge would become the center of attention in such a high-profile, nationally televised trial, but the unusual American tradition of choosing judges has made the delicate political situation even more tense.

Over the years, Judge Schroeder has developed distinctive habits, such as allowing defendants to run the random drawings that select their final jury and questioning juries about esoteric trivia.

He has also built a reputation as a pro-defense lawyer, somewhat further cemented by his irate exchanges with prosecutors during the Rittenhouse trial.

Given the highly charged political nature of the trial, many of those quirks and choices have been scrutinized for evidence of bias..

His rulings to drop the illegal firearm charge and say that the men Rittenhouse shot could not be called “victims” was criticized by many on the left.

Even your choice of ringtone for your mobile phone, the patriotic anthem God Bless The USA (“God Bless America”), a staple of Donald Trump’s rallies in recent years, made headlines as possible evidence of his political leanings.

The acquittal sparked protests in Portland, Oregon, and other cities.  (REUTERS).
The acquittal sparked protests in Portland, Oregon, and other cities. (REUTERS).

Legal analysts have generally concluded that Judge Schroeder’s rulings have been within the norms for such procedures.

But considering that the fairness of the entire American criminal system was called into question in the 2020 protests against institutional racism and police shootings, including the one at Kenosha, those norms are under scrutiny, too.

Surveillance

The events of that night have never been debated: Kyle Rittenhouse killed two men and wounded a third.

Instead, the jury had to find out why he did it. He was being chased by a group of people when he fired the fatal shots.

Was he acting in self-defense or was he a dangerous vigilante causing an already volatile situation in a city he did not belong to?

Many groups wanting tighter gun control say it was the latter. They are concerned that upon being acquitted of the charges, the case of Rittenhouse He now sets a precedent: that anyone can come to a protest with a weapon, but without facing any consequences.

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