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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."

Go deeper:

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

Go deeper

Updated Nov 27, 2021 - Technology

From Malcolm X to "Free Britney," new media shapes the justice system

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

True crime documentaries, podcasts and social media campaigns are bringing new attention to real-world legal proceedings — and are often affecting the outcome.

Why it matters: New media platforms can instantly put a national spotlight on cases that have long been forgotten or buried under red tape.

3 hours ago - Health

Meta removes over 600 accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China

Facebook's corporate headquarters campus in Menlo Park, California. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Meta announced Wednesday it has removed over 600 Facebook and Instagram accounts linked to a Chinese influence operation that claimed the U.S. was pressuring the World Health Organization (WHO) to blame COVID on China.

Why it matters: Though Meta said the network was unsuccessful, it marks yet another COVID disinformation campaign instigated by China in an effort to discredit the U.S.

Stacey Abrams launches second campaign for Georgia governor

Photo: Eze Amos/Getty Images

Stacey Abrams, voting rights activist and former 2018 candidate for Georgia governor, is running for the position again in 2022. Abrams would be the first Black female governor in the country.

Why it matters: Abrams caught national attention in 2018 by narrowly losing an election to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a state held firmly by the GOP for nearly two decades.