Can 17-year-old Rittenhouse beat the homicide charges? Quite possibly, here’s why. (Op-ed)

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This editorial is brought to you by a staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.

Kyle Rittenhouse is currently facing first-degree intentional homicide, reckless homicide, attempted intentional homicide, two counts of recklessly endangering safety and possession of a dangerous weapon while under the age of 18.

But the question is – can Rittenhouse actually be found guilty of any of these crimes? That is where the matters get a little murky.

Prosecutors have seemingly thrown a slew of charges, most of which are felonies and one being a misdemeanor. Specifically, the lesser crime is ‘dangerous weapon while under the age of 18’, which is defined as a Class A misdemeanor according to Wisconsin statute 948.60(2).

Clearly, the case is going to be prosecuted in Wisconsin, and while Rittenhouse is currently residing in custody of the Lake County Jail in Illinois – he’s awaiting extradition to Wisconsin. This means that every alleged crime that Rittenhouse faces is going to be by the book under Wisconsin law.

The only indisputable fact in this case from a criminal culpability that anyone can observe is that Rittenhouse possessed a weapon – specifically a rifle – on the evening of the alleged murders. However, that is only a misdemeanor, which is telling of why we’re seeing murder and reckless endangerment charges instead of felony murder charges.

You see, if possessing a firearm while under the age of 18 were a felony by itself, then all a prosecutor would have to prove in court was that Rittenhouse having the gun was a felony for the entirety of him possessing it.

That’s because felony murder only requires that prosecutors prove that any felony was being committed by a suspect when someone was killed in the process.

So, let’s examine first-degree intentional homicide.

Wisconsin law currently defines that charge as someone who “causes the death of another human being with intent to kill that person”, without any form of a mitigating circumstance.

Essentially, these mitigating circumstances would be the alleged murderer thought their life was in danger when it was reasonably not.

While there’s a myriad of instances defined within the statute of what defines an imperfect self-defense claim within the mitigating circumstances, most boil down to aspects of ill-conceived threats that could define the case as second-degree murder.

However, there’s a lot to digest here on a first-degree charge that could easily surpass the barometer of second-degree murder to that of flat-out self defense clauses.

According to Wisconsin statute 939.48(1), in order for someone to enact deadly force by way of a firearm, then all they need to illustrate is that “the actor reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself”.

For instance, the first person that Rittenhouse is said to have encountered and killed was someone that was captured on video giving chase to Rittenhouse and tossing some form of object at him.

Can 17-year-old Rittenhouse beat the homicide charges? Quite possibly, here's why. (Op-ed)
Rittenhouse being chased by Rosenbaum – YouTube screenshot

Now, while said object did not hit Rittenhouse, video also showed this individual continuing to pursue him.

A single gunshot can be heard which was not from Rittenhouse’s weapon, but had originated from behind him. Thereafter, four shots can be heard which are presumably from Rittenhouse’s weapon which allegedly led to the person being struck in the head.

That person was 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, a convicted pedophile from Arizona who’d spent over a decade in prison for sexual conduct with a minor.

Can 17-year-old Rittenhouse beat the homicide charges? Quite possibly, here's why. (Op-ed)
Joseph Rosenbaum – Arizona Department of Corrections

Interestingly, since Rosenbaum spent over ten years in prison after being convicted of two counts of sexual conduct with a minor (10 years for one count, 2 years for the second), that implies he accepted a plea deal for an offense involving someone aged 12 to 14-years-old based upon sentencing guidelines if he were convicted in trial of said offenses.

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While Rosenbaum’s criminal history may not be quite relevant in any criminal proceedings against Rittenhouse, his age and conduct toward Rittenhouse can certainly be examined.

Rosenbaum was 36-years-old, over twice the age of Rittenhouse.

Now while Rosenbaum couldn’t possibly have known that Rittenhouse was 17 when he began to chase and launch an attack on him, Rittenhouse certainly knew his own age and that he was dealing with an adult aggressor.

The second person fatally shot allegedly by Rittenhouse was 26-year-old Anthony Huber.

The video evidence of Rittenhouse’s encounter with Huber takes place after the encounter with Rosenbaum as a crowd of people are chasing Rittenhouse as he’s running toward a police line.

Can 17-year-old Rittenhouse beat the homicide charges? Quite possibly, here's why. (Op-ed)
Rosenbaum and Huber prior to the shooting, with Rosenbaum antagonizing the armed persons who accompanied Rittenhouse that evening – YouTube screenshot

Huber, another felon who has been arrested and convicted for numerous cases involving domestic abuse and strangulation, is often referred to as the “skateboard guy”.

With a crowd of people having caught up with Rittenhouse, one unidentified person can be seen trying to jump/stomp on his head after Rittenhouse fell to the ground.

Rittenhouse discharges his weapon initially without hitting anyone. Then, Huber catches up and looks to be attempting to gain control of Rittenhouse’s weapon but also has the skateboard in his other hand.

Can 17-year-old Rittenhouse beat the homicide charges? Quite possibly, here's why. (Op-ed)
Huber hovering over Rittenhouse with a skateboard after a crowd chased him down – YouTube screenshot

In a matter of mere moments – after calls from the crowd to “get his ass” – Rittenhouse appears to shoot Huber around the stomach area. Huber died from his injuries.

The last person shot, non-fatally in this instance, was 26-year-old Gaige Grosskreutz.

Can 17-year-old Rittenhouse beat the homicide charges? Quite possibly, here's why. (Op-ed)
Grosskreutz approaching Rittenhouse with what appears to be a gun drawn – YouTube screenshot

Grosskreutz moves toward Rittenhouse with what appears to be a glock in his hand after the shooting of Huber, which photos taken after the shooting shows Grosskreutz holding the weapon.

With what appears to be the gun visible in Grosskreutz hand, as he moves in toward Rittenhouse, he gets shot in the right bicep and flees.

Can 17-year-old Rittenhouse beat the homicide charges? Quite possibly, here's why. (Op-ed)
Grosskreutz with what appears to be glock in hand – YouTube screenshot

From there, you can see Rittenhouse appearing as though he’s trying to self-surrender to police.

Numerous police vehicle are approaching the area shortly after the shooting, and Rittenhouse has his hands up in the air and can be seen walking toward police vehicles.

However, the cops simply drove past him, likely because they’ve no idea what is going on at the scene they’re trying to respond to.

While many have speculated that police didn’t apprehend Rittenhouse right there because “he’s white” – that is not rooted in any fact whatsoever at this time.

When examining every shooting individually, there seems to be solid evidence to support a case of self defense.

While many are proclaiming that because Rittenhouse should’ve never had the gun in the first place, that it nullifies any form of self-defense. But this is not rooted in any law since possessing the weapon is just a misdemeanor.

Another point brought up is that Rittenhouse crossed state lines when the shootings happened, so that must also bear some kind of legal ramification. Once again, that really doesn’t amount to much of anything legally. All that means is that Rittenhouse is being charged in a neighboring state and nothing more.

The state lines point often brought up has also brought people to believe as though it attributes toward Rittenhouse’s intent to kill since he attended said protest and showed up armed from out of state.

For one, the distance between Antioch, Illinois and Kenosha, Wisconsin is about 20 miles. There’s not some huge border crossing over from Illinois to Wisconsin – it’s typically just a sign on the road letting drivers know they’re now in Wisconsin.

Can 17-year-old Rittenhouse beat the homicide charges? Quite possibly, here's why. (Op-ed)
Rittenhouse in Kenosha cleaning up graffiti – YouTube screenshot

Secondly, there’s footage of Rittenhouse also cleaning up graffiti in Kenosha prior to the shootings. Thus, it’s difficult to allege that Rittenhouse was planning to murder one or more persons. If that were the case, then there would have been indiscriminate shootings enacted by Rittenhouse that we’d be examining.

Also, another area constantly being clamored about is “why didn’t police take his gun away when they saw him with it earlier”?

Well, this wasn’t just an issue of a lone gunman walking around an undisturbed neighborhood – this was the site of a riot that had been ongoing and police were likely made well aware that there would be people with guns carrying constitutionally.

Furthermore, police can’t just look at someone carrying a rifle and automatically know that they’re under 18.

Based upon the manner in which Rittenhouse is handling his weapon, it appears as though he’s clearly trained in handling firearms. Anyone, especially an officer, observing could reasonably deduce that the person is trained in firearms and thus around the legal age to carry one.

So, taking all the aforementioned into consideration, is there a chance that Rittenhouse can claim self-defense and beat any homicide related charges at trial?

Honestly, yes.

If the homicide charges can be cleared by way of self-defense, then that would also realistically negate the reckless endangerment and attempted homicide.

Especially considering that if this were to go before a jury, all it would take is a single juror carrying reasonable doubt of whether Rittenhouse’s actions were criminal at the time they happened.

Because if the jury is hung, then you have a mistrial. In said event, chances are the prosecution may not want to attempt to prosecute the case again.

You can decide for yourself by reviewing the video below that offers numerous angles available of the shootings. Be warned, the footage is graphic. 

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