The homicide trial of Kenosha killer Kyle Rittenhouse has ended in an acquittal on all counts. Rittenhouse — who, as a 17-year-old, shot and killed two men and injured another last August in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during protests held in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake — has been found not guilty of five felony charges.
The jury announced the verdict on Friday afternoon after deliberating for three and a half days. Rittenhouse will walk free for his role in the deaths of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony M. Huber, as well as the wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz, on August 25.
The trial, which began on November 2, has been marked by drama and eyebrow-raising moments. In a video that quickly went viral, the now-18-year-old defendant was filmed on the stand delivering a display of histrionic, face-distorting crocodile tears. Rittenhouse sobbed, claiming self-defense as he described the night when he traveled from Illinois to patrol Kenosha armed with an illegally supplied semiautomatic rifle (obtained for him by a friend).
Judge Bruce Schroeder has also faced scrutiny throughout the course of the proceedings. In October, leading up to the trial, he requested that the victims of Rittenhouse’s shootings not be referred to in the courtroom as “victims” or “alleged victims,” but “complaining witness,” “decedents,” “arsonists,” “looters,” or “rioters.” During the trial, he repeatedly butted heads with the prosecutor. His ringtone was revealed to be the song “God Bless the USA,” which the Daily Beast describes as a “standard in conservative political circles” that has also been used as the entrance music at Donald Trump’s rallies. Schroeder also dismissed the misdemeanor charge against Rittenhouse — possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 — leaving five felony charges remaining.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors attempted to make the case that Rittenhouse, although one of several outsiders drawn to the civil unrest in Kenosha amid Black Lives Matter protests, was a unique instigator of violence, as he was the only person to kill anyone the night of August 25.
On that evening, Rittenhouse had crossed state lines to join other self-proclaimed vigilantes patrolling the streets and guarding businesses. “So people are getting injured, and our job is to protect this business,” Rittenhouse said in a video interview at the time. “And part of my job is to also help people. If there is somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle — because I can protect myself, obviously. But I also have my med kit.”
Rittenhouse, after being chased by Rosenbaum and others, shot Rosenbaum four times when he tried to seize Rittenhouse’s gun. Rittenhouse then ran away, chased by protesters; while on the ground, he shot Huber, who had hit him with a skateboard and was trying to take control of his gun. He subsequently shot Grosskreutz, who had approached with his own handgun up after allegedly believing that Rittenhouse was an active shooter.
Rittenhouse’s team, painting a portrait of Rittenhouse as just a kid with good intent, has maintained that all of his actions stemmed from trying to protect himself.