Kyle Rittenhouse Trial Aims to be Apolitical

Abi Hilden, staff writer

In August of 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse crossed state lines from his home in Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin. He made the trip on behalf of a local militia, who intended to protect businesses during the civil unrest and protests in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, openly carried an illegally purchased AR-15-style rifle as he had chaotic encounters with protesters. These encounters ended with him fatally shooting two people and injuring a third.

The case has recently made headlines, as Judge Bruce Shroeder ruled that prosecutors will not be allowed to call the people that Kyle Rittenhouse shot “victims.” Barring this word in cases like this one is not uncommon, as many judges feel the word assumes the defendant’s guilt without allowing them to tell their side of the story. Local activists believe this ruling to be an act of white privilege and would be different if the defendant wasn’t white.

On the other hand, local attorneys argue that this is Schroeder giving the defense a chance to tell their side of the story. They believe the ruling would remain no matter the race of the defendant. This viewpoint is reflected in how Schroeder is seen as a stiff sentencer. He is known to give leeway to defendants and allow them to tell their side of the story but also becomes much harsher once the defendant is convicted.

“Whatever the outcome of the trial, it will be unlikely to satisfy the political views and feelings of both sides.”

Milda Hedblom, pre-law advisor at Augsburg

“It seems to me that the situation with the Rittenhouse trial is one we are likely to see repeated more frequently in the judicial setting as the polarized political conflict in the country intensifies,” said Milda Hedblom, Augsburg’s Pre-Law Advisor, in correspondence with the Echo. “Whatever the outcome of the trial, it will be unlikely to satisfy the political views and feelings of both sides.”

With the publicity of this case, jury selection was an arduous task for both the defense and prosecution. Many of the 150 prospective jurors were dismissed for a number of reasons, from religion to a strong feeling about the Second Amendment, for why they could not put aside their preconceived notions about the trial. The selection process lasted over eight hours, ending with a jury of 20. Making up the selected jury are nine men and 11 women, who all appear to be white with the exception of one man. 

Rittenhouse is being charged with one count of first-degree reckless homicide, two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, one count of first-degree intentional homicide, one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and one count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18. Five out of the six charges are felonies, with the last one being a misdemeanor.

The trial is expected to last around two weeks, with the prosecution arguing Rittenhouse acted recklessly and the defense arguing that his actions were in self-defense. No matter the outcome, the eyes of the public will be on this trial for the foreseeable future.