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CNN: RITTENHOUSE JURY ACQUTTAL HAS LAW EXPERT CONTEMPLATING RACIAL BIAS IN JUSTICE SYSTEM
The Kyle Rittenhouse trial resulting in the acquittal of Rittenhouse is a glimpse into everything that is wrong with our criminal justice system. My discussion with former prosecutor Elie Hoenig and journalist Sara Sidner focuses on my view that Judge Bruce Schroeder’s conduct of the trial and mistakes by the prosecutors all contributed to the acquittal of Rittenhouse but even more profoundly what contributed to it are the problems with our criminal justice system.
The prosecutors made mistakes maybe the first one being the choice to try the case in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a small community directly affected by the #BLM protests over the murder of Jacob Blake. The Rittenhouse prosecution should have considered the fact that many in Kenosha, Wisconsin would have been traumatized by the protests and riots and may have suffered loss of their own property. It should have been considered whether to seek a different venue for the trial and perhaps to have the state Attorney General’s office try the case if that office could bring greater resources to bear. Instead the prosecutors seemed run over by a solid, well-funded defense team that included a legendary jury consultant that had been on the O.J. Simpson dream team. They also failed to do their homework on the crucial charge of possession of the long rifle – the loss of this charge was devasting for them as it took away a strong piece of evidence of Rittenhouse’s provocation – namely carrying an illegal weapon and also took away their lone slam-dunk chance at least one conviction. The prosecutors also failed to use their opportunity to effectively cross-examine Rittenhouse. Instead they allowed his testimony to humanize him and support his claim of self-defense rather than being an opportunity to undermine his credibility.
Judge Schroeder conducted a poorly run trial with the appearance of implicit bias. From banning the term victims to those killed and shot by Rittenhouse but allowing those same people to be potentially referred to as “looters” and “rioters” to having Rittenhouse stand next to him to view videos and letting Rittenhouse draw out the juror numbers for his alternates as well as yelling at the prosecutors Schroeder gave the impression he favored Rittenhouse. He also consistently made light of the situation with various jokes and led applause for a defense witness while making racist jokes about Asian food. But Judge Schroeder is no outlier and the inability of our system to hold him accountable is no coincidence given that the United States Supreme Court itself refuses to adopt a code of ethics.
The acquittal of Rittenhouse reminds us of the long line of violence perpetrated by white males in our country under the color of law. Violence that was and is tolerated, excused and even praised as protecting communities. I, for one, have little doubt this would have been a very different case with a different outcome had Kyle Rittenhouse been a young black man or other person of color. The jury deserves credit for wrestling with the case for three days but in the end they can only play the hand dealt to them and they are part of an implicitly biased system that needs profound reform.
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