One night in Kenosha: The story behind the trial of the century and the attempt to scapegoat a 17 year old kid.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of Urbana High School or The Hawkeye publication.

One night in Kenosha: The story behind the trial of the century and the attempt to scapegoat a 17 year old kid.

Alex Blacklock, Journalist

This article is part of a “Face Off” series. Read the opposing argument here.

On August 25, 2020 17 year old lifeguard and firefighter cadet Kyle Rittenhouse woke up to a city in ruins. Riots and demonstrations left schools vandalized and local businesses looted and burned to the ground. Rittenhouse saw the news and went to help clean graffiti and assist local businesses in the clean up. While supporting the efforts local business owners asked Rittenhouse if he would watch over their property and provide first aid to people in need during the riots and demonstrations. Rittenhouse agreed, not knowing that this one decision would change his life forever and put him on the front page of every newspaper in America. So what happened that night? Was Rittenhouse an active shooter looking for trouble? Or was he a hero trying to protect his community? Or was he just a 17 year old kid who got in way over his head trying to survive a night of terror? 

Facts of the case

There is still debate over what exactly happened that night, but this is what we know for sure from witness testimony and video. Kyle Rittenhouse was in Kenosha that night offering people first aid. He claims he brought the AR-15 because he knew there was a possibility of violence and wanted to be protected. At some point during the night Joseph Rosenbaum and Kyle Rittenhouse crossed paths and according to eyewitness testimony Rosenbaum said he would kill Rittenhouse if he found him alone. Later that night at around 11:40 pm, Rosenbaum started chasing Rittenhouse and threw a bag full of items at him. Rosenbaum then caught up to Rittenhouse and attempted to grab his gun. Rittenhouse shot Joseph Rosenbaum who was taken to the hospital and died later that night. Rittenhouse ran away and tried to turn himself into the police, but was unable to do so before Anthony Huber caught up to him and pushed Rittenhouse to the ground and bashed him in the head with a skateboard twice before Rittenhouse fired a shot that would kill Huber. Moments later, Gaige Grosskreutz attempted to shoot Kyle Rittenhouse with a pistol that he could not legally possess. Rittenhouse shot Grosskreutz in the arm and then was able to run to police, but due to confusion and chaos he was not taken into custody until he turned himself in the next day.

Should Rittenhouse have been there and should he have had the gun?

When we look at the videos, it is pretty clear that Rittenhouse was acting in some form of self defense. While there is debate over this, it is hard to argue that he was not in danger for his life, but the law is tricky. In America you can not claim self defense if you are the person who provokes the altercation. The prosecutors argued that by being there and having that gun he provoked the incident and therefore cannot claim self defense. So should Kyle Rittenhouse have been in downtown Kenosha that night? The answer is no. But here’s the thing. Nobody should have been there. There was a curfew placed on Kenosha and everybody who was there violated that curfew. So while Rittenhouse should not have been there, he had just as much of a right to be there as anybody else. Now the next question. Should he have had the gun? The answer is he was legally allowed to possess that gun. Even though he was 17 he could still possess the gun, because the law in Kenosha says you can not have a short barreled rifle if you are underage, but the rifle Rittenhouse had was not short barrel, which means he was allowed to possess the gun. So while it is true that a 17 year old probably shouldn’t be going to downtown Kenosha at midnight with an AR-15, it does not make him a criminal and him being there with a gun he was legally allowed to have does not forfeit his right to defend himself.   

Protesters, Criminals, or Victims?

Whenever somebody dies it is a tragedy. This case is no different. Nobody is happy that two people died that night and their deaths are obviously tragic. But just because their deaths were tragic does not mean we can change what happened to try to make them look like heroes. First of all, it should be noted that all of the people Rittenhouse shot that night did have criminal records. Rosenbaum’s record is most notable with a child molestation charge and later in his life committed domestic violence against his fiancée, and just days before the shooting he was released from a mental institution. According to eyewitness testimony Rosenbaum spent the evening starting fires, vandalizing properties, blocking off roads so the police could not get in, and screaming curse words. Joseph Rosenbaum did not deserve to die for his actions, but there are many people who still think that he was a peaceful protester who was just minding his own business, which is just not true. He was there causing trouble and there is no disputing the fact that he chased Rittenhouse down and grabbed for his gun. While it is not super clear how Gaige Gosskreutz and Anthony Huber spent the night, it is known that they both had criminal records and they were both seen on video attacking Rittenhouse and putting him in pretty clear danger for his life. It is without a doubt tragic that these three men were shot that night and it should not have happened, but when you look at the facts of the case it is pretty hard to deny that Kyle Rittenhouse acted in self defense. 

The trial 

The Kyle Rittenhouse trial was a true national event that had millions of Americans tuned in watching as prosecutors tried to paint Kyle Rittenhouse as an active shooter and murderer. The prosecutors in this case should be removed from office and disbarred. There were countless cases of prosecutorial misconduct in this trial. The most notable case of prosecutorial misconduct is when the lead prosecutor, Thomas Binger, began his cross examination of Kyle Rittenhouse by commenting on his constitutional right to remain silent, which has been basic law in this country for about 50 years. He then tried to make it seem like because Rittenhouse used his constitutional right to remain silent, it was some sort of admission of guilt, which could not be farther from the truth. He also asked Rittenhouse about comments he made fifteen days before the shooting, which would have been fine, but the judge did not allow that evidence into the courtroom. Binger, who was an experienced trial attorney, completely disregarded the judge’s ruling and talked about the evidence, which is obviously prosecutorial misconduct. Binger was not the only one who embarrassed himself in court, though. Assistant prosecutor James Grouse said that Rittenhouse, who was being beaten in the head with a skateboard and was having a pistol pointed at him, should have defended himself with his fists. He said that Rittenhouse was too cowardly to fight back with his fists, and because of this he is guilty. You’re allowed to look at the evidence of this case and say to yourself that you would have handled things differently if you were Rittenhouse in this situation. What you can’t do is just make up the law to fit your case and say that he should have fought back using his fists. Nowhere in the law does it say that if somebody is trying to grab your gun, beat you in the head with a skateboard, or shoot you with a pistol, you have to drop your gun and fight back with your fists. The fact that a practicing attorney with a law degree suggested in open court that the defendant is guilty because he was too cowardly to fight back with his fists is just insane and it could be criminal. The prosecutors probably should not have even brought this case to begin with because the evidence was just not there. The prosecutors definitely committed misconduct throughout this trial and it should be looked into. 

What do UHS students think?

This case was national news and many people both young and old have very strong opinions about the case. Urbana High School senior Andrew Bennett says he agrees with the verdict and said, “it’s sad that people died, but at the end of the day it was clearly self defense.” When asked about the prosecution’s actions in the case, Andrew said, “The case was worth bringing to trial and it was actually good that it was brought to trial, because the public got to see the real facts of the case.” When Urbana High School sophomore Nick Alahouzes was asked whether or not he thought Rittenhouse provoked the situation, he said, “He did not provoke the situation. People should not have been grabbing his gun or trying to shoot him. If he did not have the rifle there was a very good chance he would have been killed.” Not all students were that supportive of Rittenhouse though. Urbana High School senior Annika Rosencrantz said, “He should have been found guilty. He provoked the incident by bringing the gun. If he felt like the situation was so dangerous that he needed a gun, then he should not have gone.” The case of Kyle Rittenhouse is still very controversial and will be for a very long time. While many people still think justice was not served, it should be noted that Rittenhouse was put on trial where the prosecutors did commit judicial misconduct, and in the end, twelve jurors found him not guilty.