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Rittenhouse took advantage of white privilege in US justice system: Attorney

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Kyle Rittenhouse walks during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, US, on November 19, 2021. (Reuters photo)

Kyle Rittenhouse, who is associated with the white supremacist group Proud Boys, is a beneficiary of lethal self-defense, and took advantage of white privilege in the US justice system, according to Carli Pierson, who is an American attorney, and former professor of law.

Pierson made the remarks in an article published by USA TODAY on Saturday after Rittenhouse, who shot dead two men and wounded a third during racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year, was cleared of all charges, including intentional homicide, which carries a life sentence, by a jury.  

The jury acquitted Rittenhouse of murder in a decision that has ignited a fierce debate about gun rights and the boundaries of self-defense in the United States that has been disproportionately invoked in favor of white defendants.

The jury found Rittenhouse not guilty of all five counts that he had been facing.

Pierson wrote that “there is no doubt in my mind that, as a matter of law, Kyle Rittenhouse had viable alternatives to patrolling the streets of Kenosha with an AR-15-style rifle that humid, midwest summer evening when he fatally shot two people and injured a third,” he stated.

“He chose otherwise, and that choice should have had legal consequences,” he added.

“Instead, he was found not guilty of five charges on Friday.”

The verdict comes less than a year after Kenosha County prosecutors failed to charge the white police officer who shot and paralyzed a Black man named Jacob Blake in August 2020, which caused widespread demonstrations against police brutality.

The attorney wrote that “Rittenhouse is hardly the first beneficiary of lethal self-defense, or the first to take advantage of white privilege in the justice system. In 2012, I was in law school when George Zimmerman fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Orlando, Florida. My law school friends and I all watched the trial closely, and Zimmerman's acquittal was deeply disheartening. We had made big sacrifices to study law and dedicate our lives to the practice of upholding the constitution and its core values; my colleagues and I zealously believed that the halls of justice should be for everyone.”

“I still believe that to be true. But today I feel torn,” he added.

“On the one hand, I want to reiterate that Rittenhouse's ability, as a white man, to walk the streets armed with military-style weapons and live to see trial is exactly the racial injustice that people were protesting that fateful night in Kenosha,” he continued.

Judge Schroeder's questionable behavior

Earlier in the article, he wrote, “While much has and will be made of the prosecution's poor performance, I think the blame lies elsewhere. Even before Judge Bruce Schroeder's questionable in court behavior, in the pre-trial phase, the judge kept prosecutors from offering evidence of Rittenhouse’s association with the alt-right group the Proud Boys and his prior, and arguably relevant, statements about wanting to shoot unarmed civilians with an AR-15 over property crimes. And during trial, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger poked holes in Rittenhouse's lawful self-defense claims on cross-examination, and in his closing arguments.”

“That's because ‘self-defense’ and ‘lawful self-defense’ are not the same,” he explained.

“In common law doctrine, people are allowed to defend themselves against a perceived imminent attack. But there are rules and exceptions, including proportionality and provocation. [Assistant District Attorney Thomas] Binger did a good job emphasizing this in closing arguments when he told the jury, ‘You cannot claim self-defense against a danger that you create.’"

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