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Don’t be surprised if jury accepts Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse’s self-defense claim

It’s hard — without resorting to the use of a profanity referring to a bodily orifice — to describe most of the people involved in this case.

Kyle Rittenhouse (left) is on trial for the shooting of three people during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 25, 2020.
Kyle Rittenhouse (left) is on trial for the shooting of three people during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 25, 2020.
Adam Rogan / The Journal Times via AP

Ever since the night of Aug. 25, 2020, when two people were shot dead in the streets of Kenosha and a third person seriously wounded, the question hasn’t been who did it but whether Antioch teenager Kyle Rittenhouse would get away with it.

As the first week of his murder trial came to a close, I must report that you shouldn’t be surprised if he does.

I’ve always believed it would be difficult to find 12 jurors who would agree to convict Rittenhouse of the most serious homicide charges against him if only because the case is an intersection of so many issues on which our society is hopelessly divided — race, violence, law enforcement, guns and politics.

On top of that, the evidence presented so far has mostly supported Rittenhouse’s claims of self-defense — if jurors get past the absurdity of him being there armed in the first place.

The irony is that a key element of self-defense is the reasonableness of a person’s actions under the circumstances. There was absolutely nothing reasonable about anything that happened in Kenosha that night — from a 17-year-old high school dropout playing self-deputized peacekeeper with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, to the adults who enabled him, to the law enforcement personnel who failed to send them all home, to the rioters who set fires and brought their own guns to protest the shooting of a Black man by a white police officer.

Rittenhouse had absolutely no legitimate reason to be there that night, and I believe he deserves serious punishment.

Yet Rittenhouse’s folly also turns out to be the basis for his defense: His fear of someone taking his gun becomes justification for him pulling the trigger.

Rittenhouse is such an idiot he never even suspected he was in over his head until it was too late.

In fact, until the moment he shot Joseph Rosenbaum, that August night probably felt like the greatest of Rittenhouse’s life as he played the hero, toting around his big gun and his first aid kit, pretending he was a “medic” who was only there to help — parroting the first responder motto: “If there’s somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way.”

I’m assuming most of you have seen the video in which Rittenhouse explains his presence in Kenosha while being interviewed at a used car lot that he and his gun-toting buddies were protecting, the one in which he looks every bit his age.

The video was made by Richard McGinniss, a videographer for the Daily Caller, who exactly 14 minutes later was steps away when Rittenhouse gunned down his first victim, Rosenbaum.

McGinniss tried to save Rosenbaum’s life while Rittenhouse fled and shot two more men who attempted to stop him — one who hit Rittenhouse over the head with a skateboard and the other who pulled a gun, providing more ammo for the self-defense argument.

Videos and testimony indicate an angry Rosenbaum was shot as he chased Rittenhouse and lunged for his rifle seconds after another protester/anarchist had fired a handgun into the air nearby. Earlier that evening, Rosenbaum had threatened Rittenhouse and his fellow vigilantes, one witness testified.

In his opening statement, prosecutor Thomas Binger said Rittenhouse “chased down Mr. Rosenbaum and confronted him.” But the evidence so far hasn’t really backed that up.

This is the first time I’ve followed a trial on Court TV, which was a good plan until Friday, when the Rittenhouse proceedings were preempted by opening statements in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial in Georgia — our country having an abundance of race-based vigilante crimes from which to choose.

I find it difficult — without resorting to the use of a profanity referring to a bodily orifice — to describe most of the people involved in this case. One of the witnesses Friday couldn’t help himself, using that same term, and had to be admonished by the judge.

To paraphrase a former president, there were bad people on both sides, though, as the prosecution has emphasized, Rittenhouse was the only one who managed to actually kill someone.