Among the small number of cases that make it to trial, very few defendants are put on the stand and fewer have their cases televised. According to Vera Institute of Justice’s Insha Rahman, Rittenhouse was given the opportunity to be seen as a whole human being by the jury, and portions of the public, not only because of his testimony, but because, “they got to see him cry. They got to see him have emotion. They got to see his family.” Rahman spoke with PBS NewsHour’s Nicole Ellis right after the verdict on Nov. 19.
Rittenhouse was acquitted of all five charges against him after pleading self-defense in the deadly Kenosha shootings that became a flashpoint in the debate over guns, vigilantism and racial injustice in the U.S.
He was charged with homicide, attempted homicide and reckless endangering for killing two men and wounding a third with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle in the summer of 2020 during a tumultuous night of protests over the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white Kenosha police officer.
Rittenhouse, a former police youth cadet, said he went to Kenosha to protect property from rioters. He is white, as were those he shot.
The anonymous jury, which appeared to be overwhelmingly white, deliberated for close to three and a half days.
Rittenhouse could have gotten life in prison if found guilty on the most serious charge, first-degree intentional homicide, or what some other states call first-degree murder. Two other charges each carried over 60 years behind bars.
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