Jury reaches verdict in Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial, not guilty

National

Kyle Rittenhouse, center, enters the courtroom with his attorneys Mark Richards, left, and Corey Chirafisi for a meeting called by Judge Bruce Schroeder at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)

KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — Kyle Rittenhouse has been acquitted of all charges after pleading self-defense in the deadly Kenosha, Wisconsin, shootings that became a flashpoint in the nation’s debate over guns, vigilantism and racial injustice. 

The jury at Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial was to return Friday for the fourth day of deliberations, after a quiet day behind closed doors that ended with one juror asking if she could take home the jury instructions.

Thursday’s court session was notable largely for Judge Bruce Schroeder banning MSNBC from the courthouse after a freelancer was accused of following the jurors in their bus.

Rittenhouse, 18, is on trial for killing two men and wounding a third with a rifle during a turbulent night of protests that erupted in Kenosha in the summer of 2020 after a Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot by a white police officer.

The jury came back with a decision after close to 3 1/2 days of deliberations. Rittenhouse, an 18-year-old from Antioch, Illinois, faces life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge against him over the August 2020 fatal shootings of two men and the wounding of a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Prosecutors say he was a “wannabe soldier” who brought a semi-automatic rifle to a racial justice protest and instigated the bloodshed. The defense says he acted in self-defense.

Even as the jury weighed the evidence, two mistrial requests from the defense hung over the case, with the potential to upend the verdict if the panel were to convict Rittenhouse. One of those requests asks the judge to go even further and bar prosecutors from retrying him.

Schroeder banned MSNBC after police said they briefly detained a man who had followed the jury bus and may have tried to photograph jurors.

NBC News said in a statement that the man was a freelancer who received a citation for a traffic violation that took place near the jury vehicle, and he “never photographed or intended to photograph them.”

Before the jurors retired around 4 p.m. at what the judge said was their own request, one of them asked if she could take the jury instructions home, and the judge said yes but told her she couldn’t talk to anyone about them. Before deliberations, Schroeder read the jury some 36 pages of instructions on the charges and the laws of self-defense.

After the jury departed, Rittenhouse attorney Mark Richards told the judge he feared that letting members take home instructions would lead to jurors looking things up in the dictionary or doing their own research.

Tom Grieve, a Milwaukee attorney and former prosecutor who’s not involved in the case, called the move “definitely unusual in my experience.”

“The natural issue is that it will precipitate armchair research and table discussion,” he said.

At the end of the day, jurors looked tired, but no more than they did at the end of their first day. No one seemed visibly upset. Two jurors spoke genially to each other as they walked out the door.

Rittenhouse was a 17-year-old former police youth cadet when he went to Kenosha in what he said was an effort to protect property after rioters set fires and ransacked businesses on previous nights.

He shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, now 28. Rittenhouse is white, as were those he shot.

Rittenhouse said he acted in self-defense after coming under attack, while prosecutors argued he instigated the bloodshed.

The case has exposed deep divides among Americans over guns, racial injustice, vigilantism and self-defense in the U.S.

To some civil rights activists, the shootings were an attack on the movement for racial justice, and some have complained of a racial double standard in the way Rittenhouse was treated by law enforcement that night.

The defense has twice asked the judge to declare a mistrial, alleging that they were given an inferior copy of a potentially crucial video and that the prosecution asked improper questions of Rittenhouse during cross-examination.

Schroeder has said the mistrial bid will have to be addressed if there is a guilty verdict. If Rittenhouse is acquitted, the dispute won’t matter. But if he is convicted and the judge then declares a mistrial, that would void the verdict.

Rittenhouse could get life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge against him.

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December 31 2021 11:59 pm