Kyle Rittenhouse has been acquitted of all charges after pleading self-defense in the deadly Kenosha, Wisconsin, shootings that became a flashpoint in the nation’s debate over guns, vigilantism and racial injustice.
The jury came back with its verdict after close to 3 1/2 days of deliberation.
Rittenhouse, a now 18-year-old from Antioch, Illinois, could have gotten life in prison if found guilty of the most serious charge against him over the August 2020 fatal shootings of two men and the wounding of a third in Kenosha.
He was charged with homicide, attempted homicide and recklessly endangering safety for killing two men and wounding a third with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle.
The shootings took place during a night of protests over police violence against Black people in the tumultuous summer of 2020. Rittenhouse is white, as were those he shot. The jury appeared to be overwhelmingly white.
Jurors listened to two weeks of dueling portrayals of Rittenhouse. Prosecutors said he was a “wannabe soldier” who brought a semi-automatic rifle to a racial justice protest and instigated the bloodshed. The defense said he acted in self-defense.
Even as the jury weighed the evidence, two mistrial requests from the defense hung over the case, with the potential to upend the verdict if the panel were to convict Rittenhouse. One of those requests asks the judge to go even further and bar prosecutors from retrying him.
In their mistrial bid, Rittenhouse’s lawyers complained that they were given an inferior copy of a potentially crucial video and that a prosecutor asked Rittenhouse improper questions during cross-examination about material not admitted into evidence and about his exercising of his constitutional right to remain silent.
In a reply filed with the court, prosecutor James Kraus said that the state did not intentionally provide the defense with a lesser-quality video and that Rittenhouse's lawyers also were supplied with a copy of the original, higher-quality footage played in court.
Kraus said in his reply that the file was compressed by the Kenosha Police Department’s email program. He had earlier argued in court that the compression was the fault of the defense attorneys' email program.
Prosecutors contended the video shows Rittenhouse pointing his gun at protesters just before the shooting erupted.
The defense has also accused prosecutors of deliberately trying to provoke a mistrial because their case was going poorly and they wanted a do-over trial. But Kraus denied that, saying the state “has never had any intention to create a mistrial” so that it could retry Rittenhouse.
Find the AP’s full coverage of the Rittenhouse trial: https://apnews.com/hub/kyle-rittenhouse