Many people, even some notable commentators, are hailing the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict as a triumph for American justice. In reality, though, the teen rightly prevailed, being found not guilty on all five charges brought against him.
But he did not get a fair trial.
Not guilty verdict was not enough
I’m not the first to point out that Rittenhouse never should have been charged in the first place. Anyone with eyes could see from the video footage of that fateful August 25 eve that he was under withering attack and acted in self-defense. Anyone who can read could know that his attackers were lowlifes with criminal records, and one was mentally ill. (This itself doesn’t speak to Rittenhouse’s guilt or innocence, but it does explain the assailants’ aggression.)
Anyone with sense knows that if someone sees you’re holding a rifle and charges you anyway, it’s a good bet he intends to seize the weapon and use it against you. And anyone with a half-functioning conscience would find the arms of Morpheus elusive upon trying to ruin an innocent, civic-minded kid’s life. But this excludes prosecutor Thomas Binger, clearly a man as mean and low and devoid of character (and possibly a sociopath) as any of the rioting Kenosha miscreants whose “virtue” he trumpeted.
Then there was the presiding judge, Bruce Schroeder. After rightful reprimands of Binger for prosecutorial misconduct, I heard some observers call him “based” (the tiresome word du jour), but entirely based in reality he’s not. For one thing, why didn’t he sequester the jury?
Note that as MyLawQuestions.com informs, stating the obvious, a “jury may be sequestered in a high-profile case, or they may be sequestered when it is believed the case is one that would be likely to lead to jury tampering or threats against the members of the jury.” Well? Can you think of a higher profile trial than Rittenhouse’s or one in which it was more likely the jury would be tampered with or threatened?
In fact, it was threatened, implicitly if not explicitly. The New York Times wrote on November 10 that Schroeder “frequently complains about media bias and the impact that news coverage can have on prospective jurors.” Well, he should’ve complained less and acted more. And if the Rittenhouse case didn’t’ warrant jury sequestration, then we should wonder why the option even exists in our legal system.
Then there was Binger’s prosecutorial misconduct. Judge Schroeder might have felt better after blowing off steam — chastising Binger for raising an issue in court the judge had proscribed and for questioning Rittenhouse’s right to remain silent — but the damage was done. Add to this apparent violation of disclosure laws by withholding drone video evidence, the possible subornation of perjury, and pressuring of a witness to change a police statement, and we should ask: Why was a mistrial with prejudice not declared?
Perhaps the judge himself was intimidated by the mob. But while he appears a man of goodwill, he simply didn’t meet his obligation to ensure the defendant got a fair trial. Schroeder did not do his job.
Finally, there’s the jury. Given the looming mob, it is commendable that the non-sequestered jurors arrived at the correct outcome. But let’s be clear: The evidence was overwhelming.
Despite this, the jury’s deliberation ran into a fourth day and lasted 23 hours in an open-and-shut case that should have brought an acquittal in 30 minutes. Perhaps we should allow that it might to an extent have been theater, with the jury delay being partially attributable to a desire to appease the mob by appearing to show “due diligence” (maybe). But here’s a point to ponder:
What if Rittenhouse had been equally innocent but the evidence not nearly so overwhelming? Would he have been likewise acquitted? Or would the jurors have had enough rationalization wiggle room in their own minds to render a guilty verdict on one or two charges?
And what of the next hapless soul targeted because he was DWW (Defending While White), who may not enjoy the benefit of such profound exculpatory evidence?
It’s silly to think the non-sequestered jury wasn’t influenced by the intense media propaganda and implied threats to life, limb, and family. It all made a difference, just in Rittenhouse’s case, thankfully, not a life-rending difference.
But the teen already has been abused. First by the mob last summer, and then later by the system — for the process is the punishment.
Rittenhouse, and America, were failed by the perfidious prosecutor; the pusillanimous judge; the malevolent media; the depraved Democrat Party; and, to a lesser extent, the dithering jury.
Kyle Rittenhouse was, praise God, acquitted. But he did not get a fair trial.
Correction: An earlier version of this piece had the wrong byline.