I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that this is my first post in quite a while. More than six months. Life gets busy sometimes, so apologies to those who follow my blog. I certainly appreciate the support from those who follow the Rational Ram!
Of course, I’d be equally remiss if I didn’t take the time today to comment on the not guilty verdict rendered in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.
I will spare my readers a recapitulation of the events that led to Rittenhouse being put on trial because I assume that anyone reading this post already knows the backstory.
This post is my pithily stated opinion on the outcome of the trial.
Firstly, I think the jury arrived at the correct verdict, given the overzealousness of the prosecution in charging Rittenhouse and the ineptitude in presenting its case against him.
I know that a lot of people are angered by the verdict and are citing this as a case of “white privilege at work”. However, the reality is that Rittenhouse’s victims were also engaged in illegal activity, namely rioting and destruction of property. At least one of the people he shot was armed. The self-defense argument held largely because of these facts.
Had the prosecution went strictly for a manslaughter/attempted manslaughter charge, the jury might have convicted Rittenhouse. It is quite clear that what Rittenhouse did was stupid and reckless, which leads to my second point…
Secondly, there is a profound difference between protecting people and property and vigilantism. The former always implies the protection of one’s own person or property or in the defense of another person or that person’s property under strict circumstances (e.g. catching a criminal burglarizing your neighbor’s house). However, Rittenhouse was not defending a business or piece of property that either he or his family owned. Rittenhouse was clearly engaged in vigilantism and not defending his own property or the property of anyone he knew, like a neighbor.
Vigilantism is defined as:
Taking the law into one’s own hands and attempting to effect justice according to one’s own understanding of right and wrong; action taken by a voluntary association of persons who organize themselves for the purpose of protecting a common interest, such as liberty, property, or personal security; action taken by an individual or group to protest existing law; action taken by an individual or group to enforce a higher law than that enacted by society’s designated lawmaking institutions; private enforcement of legal norms in the absence of an established, reliable, and effective law enforcement body.
Source of quote: https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Vigilantism
From the source of the above quote:
State and federal governments are given what amounts to a Monopoly over the use of force and violence to implement the law. Private citizens may use force and violence to defend their lives and their property, and in some instances the lives and property of others, but they must do so under the specific circumstances allowed by the law if they wish to avoid being prosecuted for a crime themselves. Private individuals may also make “citizen arrests,” but the circumstances in which the law authorizes them to do so are very narrow. Citizens are often limited to making arrests for felonies committed in their presence. By taking law into their own hands, vigilantes flout the rule of law, effectively becoming lawmaker, police officer, judge, jury, and appellate court for the cause they are pursuing.
The bold is really what those who oppose the acquittal of Rittenhouse should base their argument on. Of course, supporters of Rittenhouse use the concept of vigilantism as a justification for Rittenhouse’s actions. This leads to my final point…
Lastly, Rittenhouse came from Antioch, Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin and put himself in the middle of a melee where armed rioters were. Whether you agree with his stated reasons for injecting himself into the middle of a violent riot or not, his actions were reckless and foolhardy, to say the least. Rittenhouse (at the time) is a 17 year old boy, not a duly appointed, adult law enforcement official.
Just like people who put themselves in danger by doing something foolish, Rittenhouse is lucky to be alive and even luckier that the prosecution failed in its job to properly hold him accountable for his recklessness.
Suffice it to say that while Rittenhouse avoided a criminal conviction for his actions, his recklessness might cost him and his parents dearly in civil court where the standard of proof is not “beyond a reasonable doubt”, but rather “a preponderance of the evidence”, and civil liability is not the same as criminal liability.
Justice takes many forms. Perhaps justice for Rittenhouse’s recklessness is still forthcoming.
-The Rational Ram