University administration released a statement to students regarding the jury decision in the Kyle Rittenhouse case, according to an email sent on Nov. 22. Raymond Ou, Vice President of Student Affairs and David Fryson, Interim Chief Diversity Officer, acknowledged student emotions regarding the verdict and listed sources that students can utilize on-campus that provide support.
“Many in our community may be deeply troubled by the jury decision in the Kyle Rittenhouse case … We know how important it is for all of us to have the kind of thoughtful, respectful and supportive community we have here at Brandeis,” wrote Ou and Fryson.
Kyle Rittenhouse was brought up on six charges: first-degree reckless homicide, use of a dangerous weapon; first degree recklessly endangering safety, use of a dangerous weapon; first-degree intentional homicide, use of a dangerous weapon; attempt first-degree intentional homicide, use of a dangerous weapon; first degree recklessly endangering safety, use of a dangerous weapon and possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18, according to the charges document. Rittenhouse pleaded “Not Guilty” to all of the above charges, according to the court document.
Of the six charges the jury had to decide if the defendant acted out of self-defense for the first five. Self-defense, as highlighted by the document provided to the jurors, is considered to be: if the defendant believed there was an actual unlawful interference with the defendant’s person, if the defendant believed the force used was necessary to prevent the interference of if the defendant’s beliefs were reasonable.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 years old at the time, fatally shot two individuals, Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and injured Gaige Grosskreutz, at a protest regarding police conduct in Wisconsin, according to a NYtimes article. Rittenhouse was found not guilty of intentional homicide and of four of the other charges brought against him, according to the article.
The case has brought up discussions on “vigilantism, gun rights and the definition of self-defense,” according to a NYtimes article. Rittenhouse was acquitted by the jury due to their belief that he acted out of self-defence at the protest. The protest was held after police officers shot and paralyzed Jacob Blake, an African American male. The officers were found by the District Attorney’s office to have been justified in their response to the situation, according to a CNN article.
According to the NYtimes article, the prosecution—Thomas Binger—said there was chaos on the night of the shootings in Kenosha where the protest was occurring. But, said Binger, “the only one who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse.” Rittenhouse used a semi-automatic weapon, an AR-15 style rifle. The gun was purchased by a friend of Rittenhouse— Dominick Black—since Rittenhouse was not old enough to legally purchase a gun. Since the gun was not purchased by Rittenhouse the sixth charge of possessing a dangerous weapon was dropped, according to the NYtimes article.
Being acquitted of these charges has caused controversy among Americans, according to the NYtimes article. Many calling for justice which the trial has denied them, individuals have cited the case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African American boy, who was killed by police officers for carrying a toy gun and how this juxtaposes the Rittenhouse case. Rittenhouse, who is a white male, was acquitted despite having murdered two individuals and injuring another and Rice, who was not in possession of any weapons, was killed.
Lawyers from the estates of Rittenhouse’s two victims released a statement for peace following the verdict, according to the NYtimes article. “What we need right now is justice, not more violence. While today’s verdict may mean justice delayed, it will not mean justice denied,” according to the statement.
Ou and Fryson, in their email to students, acknowledged that the news of the verdict may be “difficult and painful” for students. Especially, they noted, because the verdict had yet to be released on the Ahmaud Arbery case and the outcome of the civil case related to the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlotte. After the email was sent, a verdict was released for the Arbery case which fold all three white men—Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan Jr—responsible for murdering Arbery, according to a CNN article.
In the email, Ou and Fryson listed resources which students could use for support during these times including: the Brandeis Counseling Center, the Intercultural Center, the Gender and Sexuality Center and the Center for Spiritual Life.