The acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, an 18-year-old who killed two people after bringing an AR-15-style rifle to a protest against police brutality, does little to deter future vigilantes while refreshing frustrations about racial inequity under the law, say three Northeastern professors.
“I am deeply disappointed in the jury verdict. It sends a message that individuals can arm themselves and as private citizens intervene in public protests,“ says Jack McDevitt, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern and the director of the university’s Institute of Race and Justice.
Rittenhouse’s defense argued that he was protecting himself when he shot three men, killing two of them, during a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Aug. 25, 2020. The unrest was sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was left paralyzed after he was shot by a white officer. Rittenhouse testified that he went to the event to help protect private property. A jury of 12 deliberated for three days before pronouncing Rittenhouse not guilty on all five counts. He was facing charges of first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree attempted intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment.