A Wisconsin jury has found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of murder after the teenager pleaded self-defense in relation to the fatal shooting of two men in Kenosha in 2020.
The jury returned its verdict after deliberating for more than three days, in a case that has become a focal point for discussions about racial injustice and vigilante action.
Rittenhouse, 18, was charged with homicide, attempted homicide and recklessly endangering safety after killing two men and wounding a third with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle on the night of August 25th last year. He was facing life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge against him.
The teenager broke down in tears as the fifth and final not guilty verdict was read out. The families of the men killed held hands in court and cried as the verdicts were announced, and the judge had to appeal for calm several time as emotions boiled over.
Rittenhouse made no denial during his trial that he had been the person that pulled the trigger and fired the fatal shots, but insisted that his actions were carried out in self-defense with the youngster fearing for his life. It was a claim prosecutors were ultimately unable to disprove over the course of a two-week trial.
“He has a huge sense of relief for what the jury did to him today. He wishes none of this would have ever happened, but as he said when he testified, he did not start this,” said Rittenhouse’s defense attorney Mark Richards, speaking to reporters outside the courthouse following the verdict. “To say that we’re relieved would be a gross misunderstatement.”
“While we are disappointed with the verdict, it must be respected. We are grateful to the members of the jury for their diligent and thoughtful deliberations,” said a statement from the Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office. “We ask that members of our community continue to express their opinions and feelings about this verdict in a civil and peaceful manner.”