Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty of homicide, attempted homicide, and reckless endangerment by a Wisconsin jury on Nov. 19, following a trial that lasted nearly two weeks.
Rittenhouse, then 17, shot and killed two people and injured a third in Kenosha, Wis., during August 2020 protests against police brutality and racism after a Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake in the back in the presence of three of his children, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
The defense team argued that Rittenhouse, now 18, traveled to the protests to provide medical aid and defend a used-car dealership from property damage; they argued that Rittenhouse only fired his weapon in self-defense.
“Kyle was a 17-year-old kid out there trying to help this community,” Mike Richards, Rittenhouse’s defense attorney, said in his closing statements.
The prosecuting attorney, Thomas Binger, told the jury, “This is a case in which a 17-year-old teenager killed two unarmed men and severely wounded a third person with an AR-15,” saying that Rittenhouse was not defending his home or family, and that Rittenhouse had stayed out past Kenosha’s citywide curfew.
Rittenhouse’s case elevated national conversations over self-defense, vigilantism, and gun access.
The case also featured unorthodox behavior from Judge Bruce Schroeder, who allowed Rittenhouse to randomly draw names to dismiss six jurors, and instructed the courtroom to clap for a defense witness — a veteran — before the witness took the stand.
Pastors, Christian authors, and activists expressed frustration, both with the verdict and the trial itself.
“We don’t have to wonder what would happen if Kyle Rittenhouse was black; we have the lives of John Crawford and Tamir Rice,” Christian author Danté Stewart tweeted before the verdict was reached. “We don’t have to wonder about how he would be treated in the courtroom; we have countless stories of black children, women, and men destroyed by the law.”
Bernice King, a minister and head of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, tweeted that the verdict was “not surprising.”
“Let’s walk and work together to shift this nation and world,” King tweeted. “We can galvanize around changing our culture, including challenging the difference in how a Black male teen would have been engaged in Kenosha.”
Rev. Adam Russell Taylor, author and president of Sojourners, tweeted: “This verdict is heartbreaking & a severe miscarriage of justice. From start to finish, the treatment of Kyle Rittenhouse has been a clear example of white privilege & bias in our justice system. This verdict is not justice & sets a dangerous precedent. Our country must do better.”
Rev. Jacqui Lewis, senior pastor of Middle Collegiate Church in New York City, said in a tweet that Rittenhouse’s acquittal served as another example of why it is “[better] in court to be white and guilty than Black and innocent.”
“Kyle Rittenhouse, kills two people, found not guilty. White privilege at its finest,” tweeted Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union in New York City. “Ahmaud Arbery, unarmed and jogging, sentenced to death. Anti-Blackness at its deadliness. This is justice in America? God is weeping.”