“The verdict was not irrational. It could’ve gone a different way, but how it came out, it was not an irrational decision.” said Steven Kowal, an adjunct professor for Elmhurst University’s criminal justice department, in reference to Rittenhouse’s acquittal of five charges including first-degree intentional homicide. “There was no criminal law that prohibited him from walking down the street with that gun.”
“When Rittenhouse raised the defense of self-defense with just a little bit of evidence to prove it, it then became the burden of the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was not self-defense,” said Kowal.
Kowal mentioned that there were four things that had to be addressed: Rittenhouse was not the aggressor, he feared for his life, there was a reasonable apprehension of fear, and his activity was not disproportionate to the extent of that fear.
After the verdict, Kowal noticed that there was a lot of discussion, public opinion, and political viewpoints that left many split on the decision.
People are still upset over the verdict and wish more could have been done.
“I think that the fact that he is not guilty is BS,” said Hannah Klespitz, a junior and early childhood education major. “Whether or not it’s self-defense, it’s still murder.”
Sophomore musical ed. major Catherine Clare Songco, said “I thought he was going to be guilty, if not of all charges, at least one of them. That’s going all the way from first degree intentional homicide, all the way down to reckless endangerment of safety.”
Kowal says that is the difference between politics and law.
“The people who supported the second amendment thought Rittenhouse did a great thing, people who thought the protests going on were important to achieving equity in our society thought Rittenhouse did a terrible thing,” said Kowal. “They have their views but they are political views.”
“There are very strict rules and the government has to prove certain things and they have to prove those things beyond a reasonable doubt and if the jury doesn’t believe the government has proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the government loses,” said Kowal.
Kowal thinks people are entitled to their opinion but mentioned standing in front of the courthouse and demonstrating for or against the verdict is trying to bring a political focus to a situation that is controlled by legal rules.
Some have taken those legal rules into account.
“While we all wanted a guilty plea, the not guilty plea was probably the best bet, because the prosecution did not lay out their case properly in my opinion,” said Emily Leonard, sophomore criminal justice and political science major. “If they would’ve dropped those charges a little bit to more of a manslaughter, then they might’ve got an actual conviction on it.”
Senior political science major Jacob Christiansen said “I think the verdict is fine. Rittenhouse should’ve been charged with a weapons’s misdemeanor, I think he should never be allowed to carry a firearm again, I think that it was unlawful conduct of a firearm across state lines. I have a problem with that.”
“Our legal system, before we are going to use the coercive power of the state to put people in jail, and take away their liberty, we have a very specific way of dealing with it,” said Kowal.