In the Kyle Rittenhouse case three outcomes were possible, two of which served justice, and one of which did not. The jury could have either returned a guilty verdict on at least one count, not guilty on all counts, or at least one guilty verdict followed by the judge granting the defense’s motion for a mistrial. The first two outcomes serve justice, while the third would not have. Kyle Rittenhouse has been found not guilty on all charges by a jury of his peers. Already people are denying justice occurred.
Both a guilty and a not guilty verdict could have been supported by the evidence. Beyond the fact pattern difficulty with the prosecution’s case they had self inflicted wounds, such as opening the door to allowing mental illness evidence that otherwise would have been excluded by the judge’s ruling. This leads us to the a fundamental question. What is justice?
Justice is getting one’s due. Both the victims and the defendant deserve justice in a criminal proceeding. The victims are the individuals who were shot no more, no less. The only issue decided in a criminal proceeding is whether a crime occurred. Had the judge declared a mistrial after a guilty verdict justice would not have occurred. Having a trial and bringing the issue to the jury gives justice from a criminal law perspective. That occurred, and the verdict isn’t unreasonable given the facts and the prosecution’s self inflicted wounds. The victims in this case received justice.
Jacob Blake has absolutely nothing to do with the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. Rittenhouse was on trial for his actions; not anything to do with what happened to Jacob Blake. To try and use this trial as a proxy for racial tensions is entirely inappropriate. The overall environment in which the shootings at issue in this trial occurred is irrelevant to the issue the jury had to decide. Defendants are not guilty until their guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Just as importantly, all defendants are on trial for their actions. To bring in Jacob Blake and use this trial as a proxy for race relations is to deny Kyle Rittenhouse justice.
The cries that justice did not occur are rooted in the cry for social justice. Arguing social justice demands a conviction in a tangential matter is a threat to the criminal justice system and should be universally condemned in the strongest terms possible. We cannot let our fundamental principles of criminal jurisprudence fall to the cry for social justice.
We never were going to have healing with this trial. The intentional marrying of this issue to an overall social justice cry ensured civil disquiet would become worse regardless of the verdict. However, this isn’t just a national issue. Here in Harris County we have an analogous disquiet brewing regarding defendants out on felony bail. While we rightly condemn the number of individuals out on felony bond and the subsequent crimes they commit we must remember they, too, need to be held accountable solely for their specific actions and not fall to a cry for social justice against repeat offenders. The use of social justice as a consideration in a criminal trial leaves us all worse off.