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Kyle Rittenhouse verdict: It really was self-defense no matter how reckless he was

The evidence showed he wasn’t the aggressor. That it took so long for the jury to decide that indicates some jurors found it harder than others to arrive at the conclusion.

Kyle Rittenhouse in court Friday in Kenosha: Reckless decision-making but not guilty.
Kyle Rittenhouse in court Friday in Kenosha: Reckless decision-making but not guilty.
Sean Krajacic / The Kenosha News via AP

Many people are going to have trouble accepting the Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty verdict, but I think there would be fewer of them if they’d watched the trial, beginning to end, as a jury does.

It bothers me deeply that Rittenhouse killed two people with a gun a 17-year-old shouldn’t have had in a fight he shouldn’t have been anywhere near.

But, as I wrote before the jury began its 26-plus hours of deliberations, it’s the correct verdict based on all of the evidence and the law.

It really was self-defense. Rittenhouse wasn’t the aggressor in the chain of events that led to the shootings.

That it took so long for the jury to arrive at that verdict is a clear indication that some of its members found it more difficult than others to reach that conclusion.

In a case that has the whole country disagreeing with each other, that disagreement should have come as no surprise, and yet I’ll admit the lengthy delay caught me off-guard.

I look forward to hearing what kept the jury from concluding earlier that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense when he pulled the trigger.

“You lose the right to self-defense when you’re the one who brought the gun,” lead prosecutor Thomas Binger told the jury in his closing argument Monday.

Unfortunately for Binger, that’s not quite the law.

On top of that, it fails to acknowledge that at least two other key participants in the night’s events — Joshua Ziminski and Gaige Grosskreutz — also engaged in gunplay that contributed to the outcome.

I think Binger might have lost a conviction on the first day of trial in his opening statement to the jurors when he promised a case he never delivered about Rittenhouse being the aggressor instead of a stupid kid in over his head.

Binger also unwisely focused on what he portrayed as the kill shot to Joseph Rosenbaum’s back, which defense attorneys quickly showed wasn’t quite what he had made it out to be.

Binger also failed to show any of the video evidence mentioned in his opening statement, allowing defense attorneys to be the first to show what actually happened — and to put their spin on it. Huge mistake.

Yet Binger made a strong closing argument that brought the prosecution’s case into stronger focus than at any previous point — and emphasized the incongruity of Rittenhouse’s reckless decision-making.

But I never saw the evidence that would back up Binger’s assertion that Rittenhouse provoked Rosenbaum’s attack by pointing a gun at Ziminski — you literally couldn’t see it in the drone video that became an object of dispute.

This puts an end to talk of a mistrial. I didn’t see sufficient grounds. But it’s hard to tell what temperamental Kenosha County Judge Bruce Schroeder might have done.

There’s a guy with black-robe disease, though I did like the way the judge set up the verdict by saying: “The defendant will rise and face the jury and harken to its verdicts.” There’s a word that’s underused: harken.

So where do we go from here?

I certainly pray people won’t be emboldened by this verdict to show up with their guns every time there is a protest over a matter of public dispute. But I fear some will.

Despite what people are saying, Rittenhouse’s acquittal should not be seen a victory for white supremacists (though I’m sure that crowd is celebrating) any more than a guilty verdict would have been a victory for antifa.

On the other hand, if those redneck clowns in Georgia get away with the shotgun lynching of Ahmaud Arbery, now, that would be a victory for white supremacists.