The Rittenhouse Trial: The Best Example Of Everything Wrong With The US Judicial System



Written By: Anton Sawyer



The trial is over, the verdicts are in, and we all know where we feel and stand when it comes to the Kyle Rittenhouse trial of 2021.


In the annals of American history, it’s going to go down as another massively divisive judiciary parade that captured the nation’s attention and was incredibly fertile ground for power plays via the use of deception. From completely unnecessary political jockeying by both left- and right-wing politicians on various news outlets to the court case itself being a Cirque du Soleil of legislative interpretation, these proceedings have allowed the cream of the crap to plaster its putrescent stench into every nook and cranny of Wisconsin vs. Kyle Rittenhouse—if you can’t tell, I wasn’t a big fan of this entire display. Because every minute detail of this case has been covered on some level or another by every news corporation in America, there are only two specific elements I am going to look at today.


GOP representative Madison Cawthorn went live on Instagram to praise the verdict. "KYLE: IF YOU WANT AN INTERNSHIP, REACH OUT TO ME," a caption posted on the video said.
GOP representative Madison Cawthorn went live on Instagram to praise the verdict. "KYLE: IF YOU WANT AN INTERNSHIP, REACH OUT TO ME," a caption posted on the video said.

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The first is the unneeded political hammering done throughout centered around racism and “freedoms”—both real and perceived. The second component that made no sense was that the minor in possession of a dangerous weapon charge being dismissed, given it was a keystone to all the other counts that followed.

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The politicization of the entire trial has been nothing short of ghoulish. As someone who is kind of a member of the media, I understand the need for advertising revenue that fuels these companies. But the levels they take it to never cease to stun me. Though there were statements made by both RNC and DNC members/pundits throughout, it was the statements made after the acquittals were announced that were the most telling.


After all was said and done, even Rittenhouse's attorney accused prominent republicans of trying to profit off his client, calling it "disgusting." He continued, "There's a lot of people trying to profit on this, and I don't think people should." These comments came about around the same time that GOP Florida representative Matt Gaetz said he was hoping for a not guilty verdict because Rittenhouse "would probably make a pretty good congressional intern." Republican Representative Paul Gosar later tweeted that he would "arm wrestle" Gaetz to "get dibs for Kyle as an intern." During this same time, GOP representative Madison Cawthorn went live on Instagram to praise the verdict. "KYLE: IF YOU WANT AN INTERNSHIP, REACH OUT TO ME," a caption posted on the video said.


Not to be outdone, the DNC has also ham-fisted in charges of racism against the entire process. Democrat representative Cori Bush came out and claimed that the judge, jury, and defendant Kyle Rittenhouse were all white supremacists following the jury declaring that Rittenhouse was not guilty on all counts. “The judge. The jury. The defendant. It’s white supremacy in action,” Bush claimed. “This system isn’t built to hold white supremacists accountable. It’s why black and brown folks are brutalized and put in cages while white supremacist murderers walk free. I’m hurt. I’m angry. I’m heartbroken.” Given that those who were killed were also white, it’s difficult to see how the acquittal of Rittenhouse automatically conflates with everyone being involved in his trial as being white supremacists purely on the fact that if it were a black teen on trial that the black teen would most definitely be sent to prison.


Though I don’t agree with the racist elements Rep. Bush claimed, I don’t entirely disagree with the last sentiment.


My agreement with the thought that the judicial system is more likely to send a black teen to prison over a white one is based on experience. This experience also coincides with the need for explaining the statement in the opening paragraph of “someone like myself who has been through the courts a time or three.” Having written about the topic before, I was a drug addict for many years. I’ve come close to death a few times, and my severe alcoholism helped push me into an active Crohn’s disease. Because of these addictions, I have gone through the American judicial system a few times on drug-related charges. This isn’t something I’m particularly proud of, but it does give me the ability to offer a perspective from someone who has been through it.


There have been times both in court and the mandatory rehab-stint that typically would accompany my sentencing where I have seen race play a significant factor when it comes to both the levels of indictments (i.e., felony, Class-A, or Class-B misdemeanor) and the levels of consequence. I have heard disparities in sentencing when the mitigating factors of separate cases were of such similarity that race was the only dividing factor. So, I know that lady justice isn’t entirely color-blind. Having these experiences have also educated me on “The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree.”


The fruit of the poisonous tree is a doctrine that extends the exclusionary rule to make evidence inadmissible in court if it was derived from evidence that was illegally obtained. As the metaphor suggests, if the evidential "tree" is tainted, so is its "fruit." The doctrine was established in 1920 by the decision in Silverthorne Lumber Co. vs. the United States, and the phrase "fruit of the poisonous tree" was coined by Justice Frankfurter in his 1939 opinion in Nardone vs. the United States. Keep in mind that this thought process also carries over to any additional illegal activities that stem from an illegal activity in progress.


A good example of this is if a bartender overserves a customer and then the customer gets in a car accident; the bartender is also liable. Or, let’s say you are 18 and you have a friend over 21 and you convince them to buy alcohol. You both end up getting drunk, and you get behind the wheel. If you were to hit a pedestrian and be charged with vehicular homicide, your friend would be liable too as their illegal activity of giving a minor (you) alcohol led to the death. Essentially, had you not given them the alcohol, the accident would not have occurred.


Because of this legal standard, I was utterly gobsmacked when trial judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed the 6th count of “Possession of a Dangerous Weapon by a Person Under 18” against Rittenhouse as this is the poisonous tree. Had Rittenhouse not illegally carried that weapon there, then every piece of poisonous fruit never would have occurred. This charge was the keystone to all charges that followed. Without it, this allowed every other charge to be dissected and in need of its serious consternation—allowing the path for acquittal.


Prosecutors argued it was clear that Mr. Rittenhouse’s possession of the gun was illegal and that the jury should be asked to decide on the charge. The defense lawyers argued that the statute barring “possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18” did not apply in this case.


Mr. Rittenhouse was 17 at the time of the shootings. The subsection that defense attorneys relied upon to seek dismissal reads: “This section applies only to a person under 18 years of age who possesses or is armed with a rifle or a shotgun if the person is in violation of s. 941.28 ...” That section of law isn’t specific to minors, but rather forbids any person from having a short-barreled shotgun or rifle. The judge allowed the dismissal because the rifle was long enough.


So, let’s wrap our minds around this. The dismissal hinged on the fact that because it is illegal for ANYONE to possess a short-barreled rifle and the rifle Rittenhouse brought was passed that specific length, this means that he was then legal to carry the firearm at the age of 17 even though it’s illegal for any minor to have a firearm unless supervised by an adult for target practice. This interpretation meant that because the gun itself wasn’t illegal, it, therefore, made the possession by the minor legal in the eyes of the court.


Had this poisoned fruit argument been used and the dismissal of the charge that allowed every event thereafter to transpire not been allowed by the judge, I can’t see how Rittenhouse would have been exonerated. I have seen other teens given much harsher penalties for less severe crimes all because of what jurisprudence the court officers agreed with, and the Rittenhouse trial is just another example.


I want to make it clear that all of my feelings about how everything played out, including my opinion that Rittenhouse should have been found guilty, are based on the American judicial system. With the level of disdain I’ve written about when it comes to how this entire affair has been politically mutated, this ascription of guilt only comes from my understanding of, and experience with, the law.


But that’s been the problem with this entire case/trial, isn't it? The need for someone, somewhere, to make it all about race and political motivations. Yes, the Jacob Blake trial did kick off the series of events that conglomerated into the tragedy that befell everyone in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 2020. But it seems to be somewhat disrespectful to the movement brought about from the Blake shooting and the racism which led to his shooting being hurt overall by those with a need to profit off of that kind of thing.


Maybe I’m wrong, but if removing racism in America is the goal, then wouldn’t dragging it around as an unnecessarily politically motivated attack dilute the message of the cause overall, giving ammunition to those who use Critical Race Theory as an attack talking point?


If anything, the Rittenhouse trial MUST be remembered for the factual reason that due to a misinterpretation of the law, murder was allowed to legally happen in the Badger State.


And if the case of Wisconsin vs. Rittenhouse is used as legal precedent in the future, then the interpretation of a century-old precedent (poisoned fruit) will have been mutated in a way that is going to have grim ramifications for every defendant in the future—black or white.

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