Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, broke into big, heaving sobs and collapsed into his courtroom chair after being acquitted of all charges Friday.
After the jury forewoman read aloud the third “Not Guilty” verdict to the Kenosha, Wisconsin court, Rittenhouse began to visibly quiver. When the fifth and final verdict was read aloud, he sobbed loudly, sank in his chair and seemed weak-legged when a defense team member tried to help him resume standing.
Rittenhouse claimed he acted in self-defense and pleaded not guilty in his trial for the August 2020 shootings of three men during riots in Kenosha last August. The civil unrest followed news of a white police officer shooting Jacob Blake, a black man who became paralyzed after being shot seven times.
Two of the men Rittenhouse shot that night, Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, died.
Rittenhouse reportedly fired an AR-15-style weapon eight times during the rioting. He fired four shots at Rosenbaum, who was unarmed. He fired two shots at an unknown person who kicked him. He fired one fatal shot at Anthony Huber, after he hit Rittenhouse with a skateboard. He fired his last shot at Gaige Grosskreutz, who was holding a gun, according to prosecutors.
The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for almost four days after two weeks of testimony before reaching their unanimous verdict.
After the verdicts were announced, Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder thanked jurors for their work. “I couldn’t have asked for a better jury to work with,” Schroeder told them.
“Today’s verdict means there is no accountability for the person who murdered our son,” said the parents of Anthony Huber in a statement. “It sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street.”
Former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance told NBC that evidence shooting victim Gaige Grosskreutz had a gun in his hand when he was shot by Rittenhouse played an essential role in the jury’s verdict.
“He essentially, on cross-examination, conceded self-defense talking about the fact that there was a gun in his hand,” Vance said. “The prosecution tried to argue their way out of that situation. But I think the die was cast in a significant way at that point.”
Twitter user @TaylerUSA posted a video clip that showed Rittenhouse react as the jury read the verdicts aloud. If he had been convicted of all five counts, the teen faced life in prison.
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