Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all charges after pleading self-defense following more than three days of jury deliberations.
The decision could be a major determinant for how self-defense cases play out going forward. Rittenhouse was charged with homicide, attempted homicide and reckless endangering after killing two men and injuring another during a night of civil unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin in August 2020.
Rittenhouse was also charged with possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18, but the charge was dismissed by the judge over a legal technicality about the type of weapon he was carrying.
After the verdict was announced, prosecutor Thomas Binger said the jury had spoken.
Eighteen-year-old Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, said he traveled from his home in Illinois to help protect businesses and provide medical aid in Kenosha amid increasingly violent protests stemming from the death of George Floyd.
After the trial, defense attorney Mark Richards said Rittenhouse wishes none of this would have ever happened.
“But as he said, when he testified, he did not start this, and we’re thankful in more ways than one, that the jury finally got to hear the true story,” Richards said outside the courthouse. “And when I say the media, I’m talking about social media and things like that. The story that came out from the beginning was not the true story. And that was something that we had to work to overcome in court. And we think we did that.”
Rittenhouse testified during the trial that his actions were done in self-defense. Wisconsin’s self-defense laws only allow someone to use deadly force if “the actor reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself.”
Prosecutors tried to portray Rittenhouse as someone who went to Kenosha looking for trouble and that he was responsible for creating a dangerous situation by pointing his weapon at protesters.
Rittenhouse and his attorneys successfully argued that he was acting in self-defense.
After the verdict, Judge Bruce Schroeder, who oversaw the case, said the court would “take every measure” to keep the pool of anonymous jurors safe.
“Okay folks, your job is done. We started just about three weeks ago, and I told you it could last two weeks and two days – this is three weeks,” J Schroeder said. “Without commenting on the verdicts themselves, just in terms of your attentiveness and the cooperation that you gave to us, justifies the confidence that the founders of our country placed in you.”