Local NAACP, legal experts react to Kyle Rittenhouse verdict

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News

Protesters could be heard outside the courtroom yelling as a jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all charges.

The crowd outside that courtroom was mixed with those who supported Rittenhouse and those who condemned his behavior.

The 18-year-old was on trial for killing two men and injuring a third during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020.

It all came down to whether or not the jury believed Rittenbhosue had to shoot those three men to save his own life. A legal expert told WINK News that the jury instructions were vital. Those instructions said that self-defense wouldn’t apply if the jury found Rittenhouse provoked the altercations with those three men.

But, in Southwest Florida, people reacted to the verdict. Lee County NAACP President James Muwakkil was overcome with anger and sadness after hearing the verdict. “We still have a long ways to go when it comes to equality in the criminal justice system,” Muwakkil said.  “Granted, these are three white victims now, and the NAACP cares about them just as much because what about justice for the two men that have been killed whose families will forever grieve because they will never have closure.”

Muwakkil believes that the case came down to where the victims were at the time of the shooting. “It was connected to the Black Lives Matter demonstration that evening, and so the defense used words like rioters, and in doing that, it helped to set in the minds of the jurors that whatever happened to those rioters they deserved,” said Muwakkil.

Florida Gulf Coast Univesity professor Pamella Seay says the case came down to self-defense. The prosecution in the Rittenhouse case, Seay says, did not prove its point that Rittenhouse provoked the encounters. She also believes the defense played their hand well by putting Rittenhouse on the stand.

“Juries want to hear a defendant stand up and say this is what happened…” Seay said. “This is what happened, and that’s exactly what Kyle Rittenhouse did, and I think his presentation, the information he conveyed, and the open honesty that he portrayed in his testimony, I think that swung the jury a great deal.”

Muwakkil is not sold on this idea. He believes laws surrounding self-defense are not applied equally in our society. “Had that been a Black man on trial, self-defense would not have been even allowed,” said Muwakkil.

Seay also said that the videos the jury was asked to rewatch likely played a key role in their decision.

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