Unrequited rage: the demand for popular justice in the Rittenhouse trial

The aftermath of the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict is a lesson in unrequited anger. After a jury of 12 citizens in Kenosha, Wis., Acquitted Rittenhouse of all charges, politicians and media figures attacked the judge, the jury and the entire legal system.

Like our politics and our media, the legal system has become a vehicle for collective anger; there is no room for doubt or deviation from our predispositions. However, by denouncing “justice for self-defense”, experts and politicians seem to be advocating a form of popular justice.

The difference between vigilante and mass justice? Perspective and numbers.

For some, Rittenhouse racing down Sheridan Road in Kenosha with his AR-15 is a vigilante. For Rittenhouse, the people who chase him with guns and chains are a mob. Nor does it imply real justice, which is what juries impart through the dispassionate application of law and facts.

Most of us, including his defense attorney, after the verdict, criticized Rittenhouse and his decision to take his AR-15 into a riot. However, the trial revealed key facts that diverged markedly from previous media reports. For the first time, the public was not reading facts leaked and framed by the media. In a grand demonstration of the value of cameras in court, the public was able to come to their own conclusions.

It turned out that Rittenhouse was not an “outsider”, but someone with long and close ties to Kenosha. He spent much of that fateful day in Kenosha cleaning graffiti from the high school walls and was asked by a business owner to protect his property that night. He did not pursue his victims and shot one, 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, in the back as Rosenbaum tried to flee. Instead, he was attacked by all three men he shot, including one who pointed a gun at his head. Rosenbaum, a convicted child molester with a history of mental illness, threatened to kill him and others before.

However, the “white supremacist” narrative was “too good a fact to verify” by the media, which almost uniformly did not report on the facts supporting the self-defense claim.

Within days of the shootings, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden referred to Rittenhouse as a “white supremacist” even though there is no evidence to back up that widely repeated claim.

Also, when the judge ruled on Rittenhouse’s motions, he was declared a racist. When jurors ruled for Rittenhouse, they, including a black jury, were also found racists. When Rittenhouse was released, the entire legal system was denounced as racist.

Even after reluctantly stating that we “must abide by” the verdict, President BidenJoe Biden Pennsylvania Republican Party-controlled Senate to Spend Up to 0K on Election Inquiry Biden’s Choice for Arizona US Attorney Confirmed by Senate Overnight Health Care – Presented by Emergent Biosolutions – Boosters for All MORE added that the verdict left “many Americans feeling angry and worried, including myself. “

Other leaders went further. New York Major Bill de Blasio called the verdict “disgusting” and a victory for “violent extremism from within our own nation.” The former governor of New York. Andrew Cuomo reported the verdict as “a stain on America’s soul” and an example of “supremacist vigilantism.” (Cuomo, soon to be a criminal defendant in his own trial, may want to consider how mob justice might act in his case.) Declared Rep. Cori bushCori Bush Toppling Roe would be a disaster for young Black Caucus women of color eager to see BBB cross the finish line in the House of Representatives Former MMA fighter sentenced to 41 months for January 6 assault on a police officer PLUS (D-Mo.): “The judge. The judge. The accused. It is white supremacy in action. This system is not built to hold white supremacists accountable. That is why blacks and brunettes are brutalized and locked in cages while murderous white supremacists go free. “

For Bush and others, it’s that simple: The randomly selected jurors were racist because they failed to convict a white defendant who shot three white men.

MSNBC legal analyst and Georgetown law professor Paul Butler, who previously described the trial as “white supremacy on steroids,” said the verdict is a message that “vigilante justice prevailed.” MSNBC published an opinion blog titled: “Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial was designed to protect white conservatives who kill. “

Some did not settle for simply denouncing the jury or judge as racist. Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick stated that this was the final test of a “system built on white supremacy” that “further validates the need to abolish our current system.” What seemed to infuriate Kaepernick about Kenosha was the absence of popular justice, not a victory for vigilante justice: Rittenhouse personified all of our social ills and had to be punished, sentenced to life in prison based on popular opinion.

That, of course, would transcend the evidence or the law. It would be a system based on demand, not on deliberation, the very definition of popular justice.

The most worrying thing is the participation of many media in this movement. We live in the age of “defense journalism,” in which figures such as former New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones are praised for stating that “All journalism is advocacy. “Stanford journalism professor Ted Glasser has insisted that journalism must” free itself from this notion of objectivity to develop a sense of social justice. “

For legal analysts, this often means “freeing ourselves” not only from objectivity but also from the penal code. In fact, after the jury failed to convict as required, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry nadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerOvernight Energy & Environment – Presented by American Clean Power – Democrats prepare to question oil executives Merkley, Warren and Markey sound the alarm about the provision of ‘dirty’ hydrogen in the climate agreement All eyes positions in Garland after Bannon’s contempt vote MORE asked the Department of Justice to investigate the “miscarriage of justice. ”

In this case, the legal question under Wisconsin Law was neither complex nor confusing: “a person has the privilege of intentionally threatening or using force against another for the purpose of preventing or ending what the person reasonably believes to be unlawful interference with him or her by that other person person”. Lethal force is permitted if “the actor reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself.”

Each use of force by Rittenhouse was preceded by attacks by at least four men. The jury simply had a reasonable doubt that Rittenhouse acted without a reasonable belief that he faced great bodily harm.

Unsurprisingly, these events were often not provided as context for legal analysis. Instead, more favorable hypotheses were brought up. After the verdict, MSNBC legal analyst Joyce Vance explained that the verdict was “something like” to “saying that if you go to a bank and rob it and people are trying to apprehend you, you can get shot out and claim self-defense.” . “Except Rittenhouse was not robbing a bank when he was attacked; he was not doing anything illegal by guarding a business at the owner’s request, or walking down the street. The jury decided that the men he shot did not” catch “him but rather They attacked him without provocation.

However, the facts of the case are now as irrelevant as the verdict, because we are a nation addicted to rabies, and rabies admits of no doubt. In the minds of some, Rittenhouse was a vigilante, so his acquittal was vigilante justice. However, the change from mass justice to vigilante justice lacks the same critical element: justice.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find their updates on Twitter. @JonathanTurley.


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