After three days of deliberation, Kyle Rittenhouse was found innocent of murdering two people and injuring a third. Rittenhouse shot the AR-15 with his AR-15 during a night protesting police brutality in Kenosha last year.
Bruce Schroeder, Kenosha County Circuit Judge, had been present earlier in the trial Rejected a misdemeanor caseA loophole in Wisconsin law allowed Rittenhouse to possess a dangerous weapon while under 18 years old. Rittenhouse was still facing five felony charges, including attempted murder and murder for the murders of Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, as well as for injuring Gaige Großkreutz. He’d pleaded not guilty in January to all charges.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys argued about whether Rittenhouse acted in self-defense after he killed three people during a melee in Kenosha. Rittenhouse, aged 17, claimed that he had driven to Kenosha to defend businesses against protestors. It was the third night of unrest after the shooting of Jacob Blake by the police. Blake, a Black male, survived the shooting but was left paralyzed from his waist. “I didn’t do anything wrong,”He spoke on the stand. “I defended myself.”Rittenhouse was accused of being a criminal. “chaos tourist”Who had acted recklessly in shooting Rosenbaum four more times and Huber once, thereby killing them both and injuring Grosskreutz.
After Rittenhouse’s sobs during his own testimony was over, one of the most talked about aspects of the trial was Judge Schroeder’s behavior. He, Deja Vishny, a criminal defense attorney who worked for Wisconsin State Public Defender for almost 40 years, appeared to be on the side of defense. “I think he used his position to favor Rittenhouse,”She says. “It’s kind of unusual because for most defense lawyers, most of the time when you’re in court, the judge favors the prosecutor.”Vishny spoke to Rolling Stone about Schroeder’s possible impact on the case and what could come next for Rittenhouse.
What do YOU think about Kyle Rittenhouse getting acquitted of all charges against him?
To me, the verdict was not surprising. I don’t think the parties had an opportunity to do an adequate The jury selection processThere was one Black member of the jury panel. I think that it’s always important to have really diverse juries in all cases. There’s a double standard of justice in this country, and I’m not saying this to take anything away from anybody. Evidently, the jury believed that the prosecution hadn’t proved their case. [beyond a]They had reasonable doubt and spent a lot time discussing it and reviewing evidence. This is what a conscientious jury should do. So the jury has spoken. But, I believe that if Kyle Rittenhouse had done the same thing, he would have been convicted.
Judge Schroeder attracted attention after he ruled in pretrial proceedings, that prosecutors couldn’t refer to Rittenhouse’s three victims, two who died, in which he was a judge. “victims,”However, the defense could still call them “arsonists,” “looters”Or “rioters”If lawyers could prove they were involved in these activities, that would be a great thing. The public has also responded to him getting the courtroom to applaud a defense witness who was a veteran on Veterans’ Day. These behaviors could have had an impact on the trial.
A judge has a lot of power in a case. The judge certainly seemed to be favoring defense in many of his rulings. It’s a homicide case [and] most judges would say, look, for victims of a homicide, whether it’s a crime or not, they’re dead. So they’re victims and they rule on that differently [than Schroeder did]Even in self-defense cases. [And]If the pretrial hearing had been thorough, then this judge would have known in advance that the man was a veteran. It’s very odd. That’s really kind of out of order, strange, and it shouldn’t have happened. You’re going to have the jurors applauding for a defense expert?
Judge Schroeder ordered Rittenhouse to draw random numbers from a tumbler in order to determine which juror alternates would be dismissed prior the start of deliberations. Schroeder claimed that he’s been allowing defendants in criminal cases to do this for at least 20 years. Is this an unusual practice in your experience?
It was shocking to me that I had read about it. I’ve never seen that happen. I’ve tried dozens of cases in Wisconsin and never seen a judge let the defendant draw alternates out of the jar. It is always done by the clerk. I don’t know if the jurors perceived that judge was favorable to the defendant. The judge is generally respected by jurors who come to the courtroom. The judge is seen as neutral and powerful but not on one side.
Does this case offer anything new in Wisconsin?
The Kenosha courts treat the Black community very poorly. Just like a lot of places, there’s over-incarceration of Black people; there’s harsh sentences for Black defendants; there’s a lot of bias against Black people. There are no Black judges. The jail holds disproportionately minorities, especially Black people. Here is Kyle Rittenhouse who is fighting for these white supremacists and vigilantes. Even though Rittenhouse is being given a fair trial by Kenosha County’s judge, Rittenhouse isn’t getting it. Every day, the average Black defendant isn’t receiving a fair case. So from my perspective, that’s very disturbing to give special leeway to this young man.
Kenosha is considered racist by me, even though Rittenhouse and the people that he killed are white. Jacob Blake was [shot]Black Lives Matter protesters were tear-gassedGiven curfew tickets and all these white vigilantes — the police didn’t do anything to them. They thanked the police. They gave water to Kyle Rittenhouse.
Is this a precedent for future trials regarding violence at protests?
I don’t think a trial of one given individual has a social significance beyond that trial. I don’t really see it that way. Every case is different. I don’t think his being acquitted is going to preclude other people from prosecuting white supremacist vigilantes who go around armed. I guess it will depend on the politics of a particular District Attorney’s office.
Do you think white supremacists have the right to attack Black people now and show their racism openly? Do I think it’s gonna have an impact on those people? I think they’re not too worried about it, but I don’t think it’ll have an impact on the next trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Is Rittenhouse now free from all charges? What types of civil action might he face? What’s next?
Already civil suits have been filed [against the city and county]Gaige Grosskreutz, estate of Anthony Huber [against the Kenosha Police Department and the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department]. There could be civil actions to sue Rittenhouse for what he’s done, but it’s important that those actions aren’t just against Rittenhouse himself but against the police for [allegedly]For allowing this to happen, Rittenhouse and vigilantes colluded with Rittenhouse. This is a good example of why a 17-year-old shouldn’t be running around with an assault weapon.
Rittenhouse was poor and had no money. However, he could make a lot of money because of the large network of right-wing supporters who paid for Rittenhouse’s education. ProtectionHe was paid Bail. He may attempt to make a profit by writing a book and making paid appearances to try to sell his story. So just because he doesn’t have assets now doesn’t mean he’ll never have them. If you have a judgment against someone, you can sue that person for money. And what’s important to know about a civil lawsuit is the burden of proof for the plaintiff is lower than in a criminal case. The civil burden is “the greater weight of the credible evidence” or what’s called a preponderance of the evidence. So it’s different and so many times people have been acquitted but have been sued civilly and the plaintiffs have been successful. The O.J. Simpson case [where Simpson was acquitted on murder charged but found liable in for two wrongful deaths in civil proceedings]It would be an excellent example.
You may face federal charges. I’m not a federal prosecutor or federal defense lawyer, but there are probably some kind of federal charges. One example is that you had a straw buyer purchase the firearm. He wanted a gun. He was too young for a gun, so someone else bought it. That’s a federal crime. There could be other federal charges and the Department of Justice, I’m sure, will take a look at that.