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Acquitting Rittenhouse in Kenosha murder case would be the correct, if unjust, verdict

Before, I could see Kyle Rittenhouse being found not guilty. Now, having seen the rest of the evidence, I’d be shocked if he’s convicted of anything more than a weapons charge

Kyle Rittenhouse broke down while testifying in his own defense. With closing arguments Monday, it would be a shock if he were found guilty.
Kyle Rittenhouse broke down while testifying in his own defense. With closing arguments Monday, it would be a shock if he were found guilty.
Sean Krajacic / The Kenosha News via AP

Lawyers are scheduled to deliver their closing arguments Monday in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, and then the case will go to the jury.

If I were a member of that jury, I expect I would reluctantly vote to acquit Rittenhouse of the most serious homicide charges based on the evidence that he was acting in self-defense when he shot three people in Kenosha in August 2020.

That’s without the benefit yet of hearing those closing arguments. Prosecutors might still be able to pull together their case in a more compelling manner than they have managed so far.

And it’s also without knowing the jury instructions about the applicable law, which possibly could leave room for a compromise verdict on a lesser charge that would reflect the truth — which is that Rittenhouse was hardly faultless when he shot two people to death and very nearly killed two more.

But the evidence is the evidence, and I don’t expect the legal instructions to significantly change the outcome.

In the moments before he pulled the trigger, it’s pretty clear Rittenhouse had valid reasons to fear for his safety — first from a mentally unhinged man chasing him with full knowledge that he was carrying an AR-15 rifle and later from what he perceived as a mob violently attacking him to avenge the first shooting.

The mob’s motives — such as stopping an active shooter who was running away to bring him to justice — might offer a justification for their actions.

But it doesn’t nullify Rittenhouse’s own perception of events and the actions he took to defend himself.

Last week, I warned you not to be surprised if Rittenhouse gets acquitted.

After seeing the rest of the evidence this past week, let me take it a step further. I will be shocked if he’s convicted of anything more than underage possession of a dangerous weapon.

As someone who has made no secret of his predisposition against Rittenhouse and those of his ilk who would hold him up as some sort of hero, I thought I ought to put that opinion out there before people start reacting to a possible verdict they don’t understand.

I’ve watched the entire trial on television, which is not quite as good as being in the courtroom, but I don’t think I’ve missed much.

I saw Rittenhouse crying on the witness stand. I wasn’t sympathetic, but I found it genuine. I’m sure Rittenhouse feels very badly — for himself.

Even though I think an acquittal would be a proper verdict, I’d still come away from the Rittenhouse trial believing that to be an unjust result.

It was Rittenhouse’s reckless foolishness as a 17-year-old who chose to play volunteer lawman amid a hostile crowd while toting an AR-15 rifle — a gun he was too young to own — that ultimately is the cause of getting those people killed.

But nobody foresaw the need to create a law covering underage vigilantism, and, as a result, an acquittal would result in his trial sending a message that his actions were OK.

Rittenhouse would then be allowed to go through the rest of his life believing exactly what he said on the witness stand: “I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself.”

The fact remains that Rittenhouse had no business being there that night. Without him in the equation, nobody is dead.

Some readers seemed to mistake my stated distaste for Rittenhouse and his vigilante friends as a preference for the troublemakers who tried to tear apart Kenosha under the guise of paying their respects to Jacob Blake, a Black man shot by one of that city’s white police officers.

I thought I made it pretty clear I have no tolerance for either group.

The people on the far left and the far right are tearing our country apart.

I’d rather neither of them used this verdict to justify more of the same.