As much of America waited with bated breath, the verdicts were announced in a Kenosha, Wisconsin, courtroom yesterday afternoon in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. Not guilty rang out five times in a row, and then the 18-year-old defendant appeared to collapse.
The courtroom drama has captured the nation’s attention for various reasons, much of which swirled around passionately different accounts of the proceedings in the media. However, the three-ring circus outside the courtroom should not take the place of the facts in the case.
Liberty Nation Legal Affairs Editor Scott D. Cosenza, Esq. has covered the Kyle Rittenhouse trial carefully and studiously from the outset, and we thought readers would benefit from his educated insights.
Leesa K. Donner: Scott, it’s often said that facts can be stubborn things. So, I’m wondering, were you surprised by the full acquittal of Mr. Rittenhouse on all charges?
Scott D. Cosenza: I am not so much surprised as relieved. There should never have been a prosecution in the first place. This was a textbook case of self-defense from the first person he shot through the third. Rittenhouse only shot people who he could reasonably believe were trying to kill him or do him great bodily harm. That is the 50-state standard for justifiable use of force. This was a political prosecution from the outset in the long-standing proxy war waged by Trump opponents where everything was weaponized in the pro- versus anti-Trump world.
LKD: Along the way, Asst. District Attorney Thomas Binger appeared to be sometimes flying awfully close to the flame regarding accepted legal behavior and process. He endured quite a beat down from Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder throughout the trial. What, if any consequences, might Binger have to face now that he’s lost the case?
SDC: Some of the apparent unfairness is just par for the course for prosecutors. Too few Americans pay enough attention to what goes down at their local courthouse to know that these people have God-like powers over so many and are often poor stewards of the same. That said, Mr. Binger is a special case and may see far-reaching consequences for his behavior. Judge Schroeder said he did not believe Binger when he spoke of his good faith misunderstanding of the judge’s order regarding the case. He will likely have to face some kind of disciplinary process before the state bar for allegedly violating his duty of candor to the court.
LKD: It’s fair to say that although Mr. Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all counts, this is not over for him. Can the families of those who died or were injured now bring civil actions against the 18-year-old?
SDC: Gaige Grosskreutz and the estates of the deceased may sue Rittenhouse in civil court. The flip side of that is that Mr. Rittenhouse may sue them as well. I suspect Rittenhouse will be engaging in quite a bit of civil litigation after this case and should expect to recover damages from the many defamations he has suffered, for instance. If Grosskreutz or the estates of the other attackers have deep pockets, they may have to pay Kyle Rittenhouse damages for attacking him, as this jury determined they did.
Others may have to pay as well. Benjamin Crump, the famous lawyer, for instance, tweeted out to his three-quarters of a million followers shortly after the verdict that Rittenhouse was a self-declared white nationalist who crossed state lines with an unlawfully possessed AR-15. Those “facts” are false and defamatory. Many others have deep pockets Mr. Rittenhouse might wish to dip into via the civil system, to apply those dollars as a salve to the wounds these many falsehoods have inflicted.
LKD: You’ve watched and participated in court proceedings. What was it about this case that stood out to you?
SDC: What stunned me was the prosecutorial misconduct. Mr. Binger’s behavior was shockingly devoid of respect for Mr. Rittenhouse’s right to a fair trial. Perhaps I just haven’t been a regular in court for far too long, but his presentations were so far beyond acceptable, they would likely have earned him a mistrial. That he would make such moves in a trial the world was watching was quite surprising.
LKD: And finally, what are the widespread ramifications of the Kyle Rittenhouse acquittal?
SDC: The best consequence we can hope for is that peoples’ veils of ignorance regarding the events of August 25, 2020, are lifted, along with so many peoples’ poor understanding of the right to self-defense that all Americans possess. Hopefully that, and not more civil unrest, is the trial’s legacy.
~ Read more of Scott’s coverage of the Rittenhouse trial:
- MSNBC Banned From Rittenhouse Trial and The Jury Is Still Out
- Rittenhouse Jury Continues Deliberations as Mistrial Looms
- Rittenhouse Prosecutor Rebuked by Judge: Mistrial Ruling Pending