Rittenhouse trial causes uproar of political divide

Students spoke of the verdict of innocence in distaste as others spoke in triumph


Graphic created by Kiera Corcoran

Opposing opinions of the Rittenhouse Trial sparked division all across America. Some say the defendant Kyle Rittenhouse took necessary action to defend his life, while others say he wrongfully shot two victims and injured another. This case paints a bigger picture of problems in America such as white privilege, gun control, and the system of incarceration.

The recent trial State of Wisconsin Circuit Court Kenosha County State of Wisconsin Plaintiff vs. Kyle H. Rittenhouse has sparked a further division in America. Rittenhouse was on trial after he fatally shot two men and injured one in Kenosha, Wisconsin during a protest of police brutality in a claim of self-defense. Rittenhouse faced seven different counts, including first-degree reckless homicide, two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, first-degree intentional homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and lesser charges including possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 and failure to comply with an emergency order from state or local government.

After the jury of the case deliberated for three days, news released that he was not guilty of a single charge. Immediately, America faced a new controversy.

Some opinions believe this was not an act of self-defense, but unreasonable vigilantism that crossed lines of intentional homicide and a failure of justice. On the other hand, many conservatives see this as a justified act of self-defense, for there is evidence showing he was under attack and acted appropriately. The questions imposed amongst students and staff at LSHS well represent the different stances of America, and showed how polarizing the status of American politics is.

“Self-defense is the act of protecting oneself against harm. I believe there is a line where self-defense is no longer self-defense and that is when the situation is created by the so-called “defender”. I do believe that Kyle crossed this line by miles when he openly carried an automatic rifle at a public protest. Yes, I know this was technically “legal” and should open our eyes to the fact that every aspect of our gun laws needs to be improved. A 17-year-old should not be on public streets with an AR-15 point blank period,” senior Miles Mares said.

This leaves a lot of Americans wondering, is this case going to lead to a future of Americans taking justice into their own hands, or was it merely an isolated occurrence of self-defense?

“I believe this case was an act of vigilantism. Kyle was underage at the time of the incident, and under no certification or respect to be handling an AR-15 in public claiming to be “protecting” an area where police forces were already present. The verdict of this case sets a dangerous example and gives room for more cases like Kyle’s to occur,” Mares also went on to say.

Vigilantism by definition is law enforcement undertaken without legal authority by a self-appointed group of people. Whereas the definition of self-defense is the defense of one’s person or interests, especially through the use of physical force, which is permitted in certain cases as an answer to a charge of violent crime. Yet both definitions can be seen as applicable to Kyle Rittenhouse among Americans.

“I think self defense is the act of defending yourself until there is no longer a threat. In my opinion, I think that if you are in a position where defending yourself is necessary, there is no line to cross. Based on evidence-submitted drone footage, Rittenhouse was being attacked by multiple men, and the use of self defense was necessary to prevent imminent death,” senior Jaden Herrick said.

It seems that answer depends on who you are asking. Other opinions would argue that it was not an act of unprecedented cold-blooded murder, but was necessary and appropriate considering the circumstances.

“Considering that there is not only video evidence of the incident, but also multiple witnesses, I think that the appropriate response was for Kyle Rittenhouse to be acquitted of all charges,” Herrick said.

There is a larger question at hand in regards to law and justice. Far too often we see charges dropped due to the specificity of the law resulting in criminals exonerated. Or one could debate even worse, innocent people incarcerated for crimes they did not commit. Our justice system is certainly flawed and tilted in that it does not serve all fairly.

US History teacher, Joel Kesler, said, “I think that it shows our justice system is challenging in that it’s not a question of forming an opinion about whether what somebody did was right or wrong, it’s about whether they were guilty of breaking particular laws. And what that does is it opens up the situation where somebody did something that was clearly wrong, but can walk away innocent because they can mount a defense that they weren’t guilty of particular laws.”

The Rittenhouse case represents that morality does not come before the law. Kyle Rittenhouse’s actions are assuredly morally questionable, yet he stands as an innocent man today. Our justice system is a complex system which is in place for good reason but requires exhaustive reform. If the ideologies of the Constitution were wielded, the integrity and impartiality of the judicial system would uphold. It seems as though our political bias and distorted prejudices stand in the way of such a system.