Updated Nov 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Kyle Rittenhouse found not guilty on all counts

: Kyle Rittenhouse testifies in his trial

Kyle Rittenhouse testifies in his trial. Photo: Sean Krajacic-Pool/Getty Images

A jury on Friday found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all five counts in the fatal shooting of two men during racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year.

Driving the news: Defense lawyers argued Rittenhouse acted in self-defense when he shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and injured Gaige Grosskreutz, in Kenosha in August 2020.

The charges included:

  • First-degree intentional homicide;
  • First-degree reckless homicide;
  • Attempted first-degree intentional homicide; and
  • Two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety.
  • The jurors were given the option to consider lesser charges on some of the counts.
  • Rittenhouse initially faced six counts, but the presiding judge dismissed the possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor charge ahead of closing arguments on Monday.

The big picture: Some activists and progressive-leaning people of color immediately denounced the verdict and said it highlights the systemic racism in the nation's judicial system, Axios' Russell Contreras reports.

  • "You know damn well that if Kyle Rittenhouse were Black he would have been found guilty in a heartbeat—or shot dead by cops on the scene," former Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Rep. Julián Castro tweeted following the verdict.
  • The jury was overwhelmingly white, reflecting the majority-white population of Kenosha County, the New York Times notes.
  • President Biden said in a statement that while the verdict "will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken."

Huber's family said in a statement they were heartbroken by the verdict.

  • "Today’s verdict means there is no accountability for the person who murdered our son. It sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street," they said.
  • "We hope that decent people will join us in forcefully rejecting that message and demanding more of our laws, our officials, and our justice system."

Supporters of Rittenhouse cheered as the verdict was announced, per CBS.

  • Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) tweeted that "justice has been served."
  • "I hope everyone can accept the verdict, remain peaceful, and let the community of Kenosha heal and rebuild," Johnson added.

The prosecution argued Rittenhouse was the aggressor and provoked the "entire incident" that led to the shooting.

  • Rittenhouse, who was 17 years old at the time, said he traveled to Kenosha with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle to protect property and provide medical treatment amid volatile protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
  • For nearly two weeks, the jury heard testimony from dozens of witnesses and experts. Rittenhouse also testified in his own defense.
  • Jurors deliberated for about 3.5 days.
  • Judge Bruce Schroeder drew criticism from some for his manner during the trial, which has seen him clash verbally with the prosecution and occasionally launch into verbose legal explanations, the New York Times reported.

What to watch: Activists and law enforcement officials have warned that the Rittenhouse trial, as well as the ongoing murder trial in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, have the ingredients to reignite racial tensions and public protests, Axios' Contreras and Margaret Talev report.

  • Activists worry any acquittals could embolden vigilantes who commit gun violence — especially against people of color — and then claim self-defense.
  • Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers had put 500 National Guard members on standby prior to the verdict.
  • Speaking to CNN outside the Kenosha courthouse on Friday, Justin Blake, the uncle of Jacob Blake, said: "We want the nation to know the nation that you live in now isn't the ... United States that we used to live in."

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Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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