A jury on Friday found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all charges related to the shootings of three protesters at a demonstration against racial injustice in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August last year.
Rittenhouse fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz during often violent protests in the summer of 2020 following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, faced charges ranging from intentional homicide to reckless and attempted homicide.
The jury who acquitted the teen was made up of seven women and five men. They had been deliberating since Tuesday morning and heard from more than 30 witnesses during two weeks of testimony.
The case focused on whether Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed two men and wounded a third during a night of protests and civil unrest last year.
Rittenhouse had faced five charges, including first-degree intentional homicide, which carries a sentence of life in prison.
Standing before the jury as each not guilty verdict was read, Rittenhouse broke down in tears. By the last verdict, he appeared to collapse. He was helped up and given water. Rittenhouse hugged one of his attorneys with both tears and a large smile.
Members of Rittenhouse’s family, sitting behind him in the courtroom, were all spotted in tears.
Blake, whose shooting sparked the protests in Kenosha, was left paralyzed, and the white police officer who shot him was cleared of any federal or state charges.
Rittenhouse said he was in Kenosha to help the community during the unrest, but prosecutors painted him as a vigilante looking for trouble.
While Rittenhouse argued he acted in self-defense, prosecutors said he provoked the attacks by bringing his AR-15 style rifle to the protest. They also said he pointed the gun at Rosenbaum, the first man he shot, before Rosenbaum chased him, a point the defense disputed.
Although Grosskreutz was armed with a pistol, Rosenbaum and Huber were not. Prosecutors said Rittenhouse should have fled or fought without firing his gun if he feared for his safety, but the defense argued he thought the men could take his firearm and use it to kill him or others.
The trial’s eight days of testimony regularly included raw emotion and extreme tension. Rittenhouse took the stand last week in his own defense and broke down when describing the events of Aug. 25, 2020.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Rittenhouse said while claiming self-defense. Later, Rittenhouse said: “I didn’t want to have to kill anybody that night.”
Schroeder, the longest-serving current judge in Wisconsin, first drew national attention before the trial began in October, when he said the people shot by Rittenhouse couldn’t be called “victims” but could be called “rioters, looters, and arsonists.”
During the trial, Schroeder angrily chastised prosecutors multiple times and prevented them from zooming in on an iPad video after suggesting that doing so could alter the footage.
Editing by Omotola Oguneye