Before you question my ability to analyze this case, you should know I was a criminal defense lawyer in Orlando, Fla. for 42 years before retiring and moving to Rogersville.
During that time frame, I tried approximately 250 jury trials, argued 2,000 contested motion hearings, and handled 13 murder cases. Those experiences allow me to see clearly why Mr. Rittenhouse was found Not Guilty on all counts.
First, Wisconsin has a self defense law that is quite favorable to a defendant in a case like his. While many States have a “duty to retreat” written into their self defense statutes, Wisconsin does not.
The Wisconsin Self Defense Statute states in relevant portions that a person is privileged to threaten or intentionally use force against another for the purpose of preventing or terminating what the person reasonably believes to be an unlawful interference with his person by such other person.
This portion of the law would be relevant in a non-deadly situation such as a fist fight. Example-you are out to dinner when an obnoxious drunk starts making obscene remarks about your wife and tries to pick her up. You tell him he needs to stop and he threatens to beat you up and takes a swing at you. You hit him in his face numerous times and break his nose. You are not guilty under this statute.
The second part of the statute deals with the use of deadly force and says in relevant parts that a person may not intentionally use force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm, unless the person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself.
So the first part of the statute is a prerequisite to the second part. If you look at the key words in the statute, there must be an “unlawful interference” with your person. Then there must be a “reasonable belief” that “imminent death or great bodily harm” is about to happen to you as a result of the other person’s conduct.
Then there must be a showing that “deadly force is necessary” under the circumstances. If you look at the four quoted phrases the Defense would need to show that these elements were proved prior to Mr. Rittenhouse firing his AR-15 Rifle at the alleged victims.
Second, the defense lawyers proved to the Jury through skillful cross examination of the State’s witnesses and pointing out the conduct of the alleged victims on the videos shown of the incident, that the above four elements of self defense had been proven. They did a great job, unlike many incompetent defense lawyers I have seen throughout my career.
Third, his lawyers put Mr. Rittenhouse on the witness stand, a great move in my opinion. His testimony re-established the above four elements of self defense that the Defense team needed to show. Again, his lawyers did a great job of prepping him for his testimony.
Do you really think an 18 year old kid could testify so smoothly in a case of this magnitude unless his lawyers hammered him for hours with extremely difficult questions they knew the prosecutor would ask? This is what great lawyers do.
Your client needs to know every possible question the Attorney for the State is going to ask him on cross examination so he is ready to properly respond while on the witness stand.
Fourth, the Judge when reading Jury Instructions to the Jury told them that self defense is an absolute defense to the charges against Mr. Rittenhouse if they found that he satisfied the requirements of the aforesaid self defense statute.
He specifically explained that if the Defendant’s use of deadly force was reasonable under the facts of the case, they SHOULD FIND HIM NOT GUILTY. This is exactly what the Jury did.
Hence, a slam dunk. The State should have known going into the case their chances of getting a conviction were slim. However, because the case involved a large group of unruly protestors who were upset over a white police officer shooting a black man, political pressure required a trial.
If this had been a case of a couple of drug dealers getting into a gun fight over a bad drug deal, it would never have gone to trial. The winner might have gotten a couple of years in prison for doing the community a favor.
The trial was definitely a show put on by the socialist, liberal, anti-gun, factions who pushed it forward. Now the entire country is going ballistic over the verdict.
How could this have possibly happened? I just explained it. The press is talking about racial injustice (I believe everyone in this case was white), vigilantism (didn’t the victims chase and attack Rittenhouse), and policing in America (didn’t he immediately allow the police to arrest him without resisting, unlike many others who did resist).
In an article by the Kingsport Times, Joe Biden first expressed respect for the Jury Verdict. Later, in a written statement he said “like many Americans, he was angry and concerned with the acquittal of Rittenhouse”. Hey Joe, the Jury followed Wisconsin Law, not their emotions.
Congratulations to a Jury who had the guts to do the right thing rather than follow public opinion. And Joe, how many Jury Trials do you have? Probably none. Next time, give me a call and I’ll explain to you what happened.
James C. Weart is a retired criminal attorney who resides in Rogersville. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org