OPINION: The Rittenhouse Privilege has set a precedent that permits individuals to claim self-defense in the most outrageous of cases.
Kyle Rittenhouse being found not guilty on all counts after more than 24 hours of deliberations can be summed up with one simple phrase: White privilege. It’s an all too familiar theme we witness when White defendants are on trial for killing us.
The privilege that Rittenhouse displayed and benefited from, however, was clearly on another level. When privilege is raised in the legal arena, it is referring to communications between certain individuals that are protected – communication between husband and wife, doctor and patient, attorney and client.
I dare say Kyle Rittenhouse was cloaked with a privilege you cannot find in any legal precedent – The Rittenhouse Privilege. Throughout the trial there were instances in which it was quite apparent that the scales of justice tipped in favor of Kyle Rittenhouse.
Let’s start with the jury makeup. After the jury process, 18 individuals were selected to listen to the trial. Of these 18 individuals, 12 were selected at random by the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse, to deliberate. These individuals consisted of seven women and five men – only one was a person of color.
The next thing to consider is the venue. The case was tried in Kenosha, which according to Census data is over 75% White. In the past, Kenosha country voted Democratic but went for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. It is also particularly important to consider the fact that Wisconsin is a gun friendly state. But we must also ask ourselves Gun Friendly toward whom?
We saw how law enforcement drove past Rittenhouse, a then 17-year-old not adhering to the curfew, who had just shot and killed Anthony Huber (26) and Joseph Rosenbaum (36) and injured Gaige Grosskreutz (36). They drove past him but didn’t think twice about firing their artillery at Jacob Blake.
One would have thought because the victims in this case were White, this case would be open and shut. But the victims who were in Kenosha to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake were villainized and treated in an all too familiar manner – but in this case the victims were not Black. By order of Judge Bruce Schroder, the victims in this case would not be referred to as victims by the prosecution throughout the trial.
According to reports, this is a long-standing rule Judge Schroeder has maintained in his court. But when Judge Schroeder’s ringtone is “God Bless the USA” — Trump’s 2016 and 2020 campaign song — you just can’t help but wince a little.
Kyle Rittenhouse was charged with seven counts. The State of Wisconsin had the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Rittenhouse committed the seven counts, which included first degree intentional homicide with a dangerous weapon. However, before the jury even began deliberating, two of the seven counts (possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under eighteen and failure to comply with emergency order) were dismissed by the judge.
Trials can be a rollercoaster ride; one minute you’re up and then the next minute you’re fighting to keep it all together. Attorneys expect there to be setbacks because the courtroom is volatile. However, there were critical mistakes committed by the prosecution. You can’t pick your witnesses but there’s an unofficial rule when conducting your examination, direct or cross — don’t ask a question that you do not know the answer to.
During direct examination, Ryan Balch — who walked around with Rittenhouse patrolling the streets in Wisconsin — testified that Rosenbaum acted in a “hyperaggressive” manner; Richard McGinnis testified that Jason Rosenbaum went after Rittenhouse and attempted to reach for the gun when Rittenhouse shot him. Later during cross examination, Grosskreutz testified he thought Anthony Huber attempted to harm Rittenhouse. These statements alone were key in the claim of self-defense.
When claiming self-defense, the defendant cannot be the aggressor. It was necessary for the jury to find Rittenhouse believed there was an unlawful threat to him and that the amount of force he used was reasonable and necessary. This is why Rittenhouse testified incessantly that he used force necessary to remove the treat to him. But none of the victims who were killed were armed – Rittenhouse brought a gun to a fist fight. Rittenhouse cried his crocodile tears, used his privilege, and convinced the jury that he was walking around in Kenosha past curfew with an AR-15 because he was trying to deliver medical aid.
The Rittenhouse Privilege weaved its way into the cracks of the courtroom in Kenosha. We knew the tactics that would be played, he’s White, he’s male and, to use the words of Judge Schroeder Rittenhouse, he is brazen. He walked his way into the courtroom. Just as he audaciously walked past the brigade of police vehicles while carrying an AR-15 across his body, crossed state lines and went home while Rosenbaum and Huber lay dead on the streets of Kenosha.
The Rittenhouse Privilege has set a precedent. There is now legal precedent which permits individuals to claim self-defense in the most outrageous of cases. Be forewarned – this precedent will only extend to individuals who can claim the Rittenhouse privilege.
Stephanie is an Attorney and Policy Strategist focusing on reforming the Criminal Legal System. Stephanie was an anchor on the Law and Crime Network and has provided legal analysis for Fox News.
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