The Rittenhouse Case is Not Disappearing Anytime Soon and Here’s Why



Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges this past month.

Noa Davies

Eighteen-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was on trial last month for killing two unarmed men and injuring another during a protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin last August. Rittenhouse was charged with five felonies: first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety. Video footage and photos have been released from the events of the night. During the trial, each side presented a different narrative. Prosecutors claimed Rittenhouse was a vigilante who went to a protest with a rifle looking for trouble. The defense played Rittenhouse as a teenager defending himself from being under attack and doing what he had to do to protect himself. After over twenty-five hours of jury deliberations, Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges. Though Rittenhouse’s case is over, the verdict has sparked much controversy over racial bias in the law, pending cases, and gun control.

An issue of race arose from the Rittenhouse case. Jacob Blake, the man whose protest Rittenhouse was involved in at the time of the incident, was a black man shot seven times by a white police officer in Kenosha. The police officer claimed that when Blake stepped out of his car, he feared he was about to be stabbed but the warrant for his arrest was pending. On the other hand, Rittenhouse, a white man with a rifle, shot three people, killing two of them, and was able to walk past the police, go home, and have a good night’s rest. He was not immediately arrested and shot to death, even after killing two. Black Lives Matter protesters claim that that “white privilege” is the reason that Rittenhouse walked out of that court “not-guilty.” Only future cases will tell whether Rittenhouse’s case was really an outcome of white privilege.

A recent and uprising case that will determine how the people view Rittenhouse’s sentencing is that of Chrystul Kizer. At seventeen, Kizer went to jail for shooting Randall P. Volar III, who had previously been arrested on child sexual assault charges, in the head after Kizer claims it was in self-defense as he sexually abused her. Though she was released from jail after efforts by the Chicago Community Bond Fund and other groups raised enough to pay her bond, Kizer is still awaiting trial. The prosecutors of this case are stating that the action was premeditated but, just like the Rittenhouse case, the defense is claiming that Kizer was acting in self-defense. Protesters argue that since Rittenhouse made the same claim and was successful in being acquitted, so should Kizer. If she does not get the same outcome, questions about how truly equal the law is for everyone will arise, especially for women of color such as Kizer. 

The Rittenhouse trial also continued controversy around gun restrictions. Though laws state that you must be eighteen years old or older to possess a “dangerous weapon,” Rittenhouse was seventeen with a rifle at a protest. The defense ordered that these charges be dropped as the rifle that Rittenhouse was carrying was the correct length for him to have legal access to it. Gun-control activists have cited that this is another loophole that could have been fixed if there were uniform gun laws. They continue that though the gun is legal for hunting, Rittenhouse was doing nothing of the sorts and was rather using it in a dangerous way. Gun rights activists have found this case a victory as Rittenhouse should have had a gun in this case to protect himself. “…perhaps gun laws will become more strict because of the danger that society now sees in a new light because of the way Rittenhouse was casually holding a mass murder weapon,” said Jonah Rosenstein ’22. Though states have the right to establish their own gun laws, there is a wide range in the intensity of restrictions. This calls for a tremendous amount of controversy between parties, and the Rittenhouse case is only adding fuel to that fire. 

It is evident that the Rittenhouse trial will continue to arise in many arguments and legal debates surrounding race and gun laws in America. The Rittenhouse case is a center for comparisons in upcoming legal cases to follow.