Imagine Kenosha was Williamsport — and Kyle Rittenhouse was your son

Imagine you are a juror, imagine it is your son, imagine it is your city

Imagine you are a juror in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last week.

You do your civic duty in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse under the most difficult of circumstances.

You come to the case after the sitting president, as a candidate for the office last summer, has already labeled the defendant a white supremacist.

As you listen to the testimony, the commotion outside from groups whipped to a fever pitch over political agendas and misinformation is so loud you can hear it amid the testimony.

Part of the testimony you hear is a prosecution witness admitting under oath that Rittenhouse did not attack him until he first raised his hands toward him. There is clear, video evidence showing Rittenhouse running and being attacked prior to firing his weapon.

You deliberate for more than 30 hours before issuing a not guilty verdict on all counts. It is the responsible thing to do, based on the testimony. But it is not the easy thing to do, based on the circumstances, which include representatives of MSNBC running a red light while following the bus of the unsequestered jury from the court house.

Given these circumstances, how are we going to get juries in future high-profile cases?

While the jurors forfeited their right to normal lives, this country’s system of justice won despite a barrage of invalid race card assault. In a case that received no attention on the same day Rittenhouse was acquitted, Andrew Coffee IV, who is black, was found not guilty based on self-defense in the killings of SWAT team personnel in Florida who raided his home and inadvertently killed his girlfriend in the crossfire. Marcus Weldon, who is black, was found not guilty based on self-defense in a Detroit case similar to Rittenhouse’s. Juries of regular people seem more capable of objectivity than former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and expiring New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, who classified the jury’s work as disgraceful.

Imagine Kyle Rittenhouse is your son.

While he lives with his mother just across the border in Illinois, his father lives in Kenosha and he came there following a couple nights of rioting. He did not bring a gun across the border. It was given to him by an acquaintance and, based on the model he possessed, was legal. He was there to clean up graffiti and help anyone he could.

His victims — all with criminal records, including one convicted of sexually abusing minors and one convicted of domestic assault — were all white.

If you did not know these facts before the case, my humble suggestion is that you reconsider your sources of information.

But for Kyle Rittenhouse, the damage is already done. He is a marked man the rest of his life, despite no evidence that he is what he was labeled very publicly, very quickly last summer, during the trial and even after the not guilty verdict. Like a million 17-year-olds, including this one 51 years ago, he made a well-intentioned, impulsive, questionable decision — in his case, to go to Kenosha.

The president of the United States, given the opportunity to reconsider his accusation of white supremacy, merely backed the system of jury justice. Then his handlers got to him and he issued a tweet a couple hours later understanding the anger people feel over the verdict.

The vice president of the United States, who made her reputation as a prosecutor in California yet last summer supported a fund to raise bail for people accused of rioting in Minneapolis, said a lot of work remains to be done to get equity in the courts in this country.

Imagine Kenosha, a city of about 100,000, is Williamsport.

The city endured rioting last summer after police shot a black man. The full story is that they were called to apprehend Blake following a sexual assault complaint from an ex-girlfriend, who requested their action. Blake had a knife and was coming at police when he was shot and seriously wounded.

Hopefully, redemption will be a big part of the rest of his life.

And hopefully, Kenosha will get to redeem itself from the serious stains it was forced to absorb. The community did not ask for or deserve the rioting and millions of dollars in damages, much of it to minority-owned businesses. Wisconsin’s governor turned down an offer for National Guard help from President Trump.

The same governor had the National Guard in place during and after the Rittenhouse trial. Apparently, political hay mattered more last summer than protecting one of the cities he is duty-bound to safeguard.

Has anyone listened to Rittenhouse’s own comments that he supports Black Lives Matter, the right of people to peacefully protest and believes the justice system needs reform to stop prosecutorial misconduct against everyone?

Probably not.

We don’t listen enough anymore. We settle for narratives we are fed rather than considering the facts of a situation and doing what the Kenosha jury did — find our own objective truth.

Until that changes, we will be prone to the knee-jerk rioting and misplaced protesting that went on in Portland and New York City after the verdict.

We are so much better than every facet of the Rittenhouse case. We need to look ourselves in the mirror and start acting it.

David F. Troisi retired as editor of the Sun-Gazette. None of the opinions expressed necessarily represent the views of the Sun-Gazette.


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