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Ultimately, jury instructions also helped Rittenhouse be acquitted, CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates said. Although jurors did not speak to the media to explain their decision, legal experts contacted by NPR throughout the trial said an acquittal was not surprising. His testimony was crucial for several reasons, according to legal experts. `Number one, you humanize him` Most importantly, number two, he explained his use of force,” said CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson. But for the lawyers, it was no surprise. After Mr. Rittenhouse claimed to have acted in self-defense when he shot and killed three men in riots that followed the shooting of a black man by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the onus lay with prosecutors to prove otherwise. Gun laws have generally become more permissive – open carrying is now legal to some extent in almost every state. Gun purchases have skyrocketed, and the Supreme Court appears poised to override New York State`s handgun license requirement in a Second Amendment case. The prosecution called more than a dozen witnesses to support their case. But legal experts said these witnesses sometimes appeared to support Rittenhouse`s claim to self-defense. Also, trying to portray Rittenhouse as a provocateur for bringing an AR-15 gun didn`t work because of Wisconsin`s gun culture, which isn`t necessarily always equated with criminal activity, legal experts told CNN. Wisconsin`s rules of self-defense are well into the national mainstream.
If people have reasonable grounds to believe that they are at risk of death or serious injury, they may use lethal force. Most states say that a person who provokes violence or acts unlawfully waives the right to self-defense, but Wisconsin allows it if the person has “exhausted all other reasonable means to escape or avoid death or serious bodily harm.” And while the jury`s decision was sharply criticized by the victims` families, legal experts say they were not surprised by the verdict. The acquittal underscores the broad arc the legal system gives to defendants who say they acted out of fear, even when others around them were also afraid. As a professor of criminal law, I teach my students that the law of self-defense in America starts from an important concept: human life is sacred and the law will justify the killing of human lives only under narrowly defined circumstances. “We had an injury and we made two different jurors, one with him as a witness and the other without his testimony. It was much better than what he said — and it sealed him,” Richards said. “If you don`t put a customer on the stand, you`re going to lose, period.” [The editors of The Conversation Politics + Society choose stories you need to know. Sign up for Politics Weekly.] HSU: What do you think were the biggest challenges for jurors? “When the jury came back a few days ago and looked at the video frame by frame, they wanted to see if Kyle was doing anything to provoke the threat and if his response to that threat was reasonable in terms of the use of lethal force, and they agreed with the defense that it was,” Azari added.
“With all of this put together, it`s not surprising that an acquittal took place, but it was really due to this instruction from the jury to look through Kyle Rittenhouse`s eyes,” Coates said. These are the factors that, according to experts, led to Rittenhouse`s acquittal. Kyle Rittenhouse`s acquittal underscores the broad arc of the defendants, who say they acted out of fear. The “Stand your ground” laws came under national scrutiny in the trial of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted in 2012 of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. “It wasn`t until you pointed your gun at him — your gun advancing at him, now your hands down, you pointed at him — that he fired, right?” said defense attorney Corey Chirafisi. Coates said the instructions said jurors should look at the case through the eyes of Rittenhouse, then 17, not after the fact, and assess the appropriateness of his actions. “They all painted a picture that Mr. Rosenbaum was definitely the aggressor,” Wright of the University of Wisconsin said.
“There were testimonies that he had grabbed the gun.” It is still unclear if there was a fight, who the striker was and if Zimmerman had injuries consistent with his claims of being beaten by Martin. Zimmerman was the only survivor; Martin, who was unarmed, died of a gunshot wound. But Wisconsin`s Self-Defense Act allows someone to use lethal force if they have reasonable grounds to believe they are in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm. Rittenhouse faced five crimes after shooting Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, then 26. The most serious charge, premeditated first-degree murder, was sentenced to life imprisonment. HLT: It`s interesting because the taking of a gun is also one of the facts of another trial that is currently taking place in Georgia in relation to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Harvard Law Today: Were you surprised by the decision? Großkreutz ran after the first shot after Rittenhouse and approached him, Glock pistol in hand, when Rittenhouse shot Huber. Großkreutz testified that he believed Huber had tried to harm Rittenhouse. “If we have a country where guns are ubiquitous and the law has little or nothing to say about where and when you can carry a gun and display a gun,” Buell said, “then we`re going to have a situation where the self-defense law can`t really handle it.” Another state witness, Richie McGinniss, a video producer for a conservative news site who witnessed the Rosenbaum shooting, testified that Rosenbaum grabbed the Rittenhouse gun. The reasonable standard of fear of self-defence has raised concerns that it may be affected by the same racist prejudices that permeate the justice system.
A mountain of social science research shows that black people, especially men, are more likely to be seen as threatening. Passers-by on the steps of the courthouse watch the verdict read in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. Legal experts said Rittenhouse`s claim of self-defense was strong from the start. Nathan Howard/Getty Images Hide caption There were also mistakes made by the state, including exaggerating the case by trying to portray Rittenhouse as an active shooter, said Honig, the former federal prosecutor. Gertner: I think the problem was the moments before Rittenhouse was filmed. He said [Joseph] Rosenbaum grabbed his gun. And I think he said that about Anthony Huber as well. Well, I`ve thought about it a lot. If seizing your weapon, from a 17-year-old civilian, was considered hostile, we are in very dangerous territory. But the jury essentially agreed that taking his gun did not mean that he would be disarmed and the whole situation would be defused, but that it would mean that he would be shot. And the jury had to dissect this: Does taking his gun mean they would shoot him, or does it mean he would be unarmed? And if, at this point in the process, you were already programmed to think that the protesters were bad, you will be mistaken and say that the grip of his weapon was aggressive.
Janine Geske, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who now teaches at Marquette University School of Law, said the trial was a case in which many people`s opinions about what was morally acceptable clashed with the jury`s interpretation of what the law allowed. And Großkreutz, who was the only person to survive the Rittenhouse shooting, the prosecution`s main witness, testified, highlighting the challenge for the prosecution. Even assuming that everyone involved has the best intentions, it would be difficult to distinguish aggressors from defenders.