ABC Action News legal analyst weighs in on verdict in Rittenhouse trial

Kyle Rittenhouse found not guilty on all counts
Kyle Rittenhouse
Posted at 7:53 PM, Nov 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-19 23:15:13-05

KENOSHA, WISCONSIN — After four days of deliberations, a jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all five counts.

Rittenhouse was visibly shaken and in tears when the verdict was read. He hugged one of his defense attorneys.

"We're very happy with the verdict, we're happy that the jury took the time, put in an incredible amount of effort to say that we're relieved would be a gross misunderstatement," said Mark Richards, defense attorney.

Rittenhouse was 17 years old last August when he shot three people, killing two of them in Kenosha, Wisconsin during protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Rittenhouse claimed he acted in self-defense, but prosecutors said he had intent to kill.

Jeff Swartz, a law professor, retired judge, and ABC Action New legal analyst, said he found the verdict surprising.

"I thought with the length of the deliberations that it was best for the prosecution that it would come back as a hung jury," said Swartz.

Earlier this week, the judge defended his longstanding rule that prosecutors do not call the men shot by Rittenhouse "victims" during the trial. The judge argued it implies that a crime was definitively committed and could therefore prejudice a jury against the defendant. Swartz disagreed.

"I think the judge put his thumb on the scale of justice in favor of Mr. Rittenhouse. I think his rulings were wrong. I think anyone who is shot and killed whether it turns out to be justified or whether it turns out to be excused is still the victim of a gunshot and is still the victim of a homicide," said Swartz.

Rittenhouse could have faced life in prison if found guilty on the most serious charge.

“He wants to get on with his life,” defense attorney Mark Richards said. “He has a huge sense of relief for what the jury did to him today. He wishes none of this ever happened. But as he said when he testified, he did not start this.”