Did Kyle Rittenhouse commit murder in Kenosha — or did he act in self-defense? “This is one of those rare cases,” Tucker Carlson told his audience last night, “where we might be able to reach firm conclusions about that before the trial.” Maybe, although it’s always risky when doing so exclusively on the evidence conveniently supplied by the defense attorney’s non-profit organization. However, Carlson does make a compelling case based on that video that prosecutors may have jumped the gun by charging Rittenhouse, at least:
The footage, which was given to Carlson by a nonprofit group run by Rittenhouse’s defamation attorney, Lin Wood, showed Rittenhouse before the riots began that night. Rittenhouse told an interviewer that he was in the city to help clean up during the riots, which had been ongoing since the police shooting of Jacob Blake. He was filmed scrubbing graffiti from a school earlier that morning. …
Joseph Rosenbaum, one of the protesters who was shot by Rittenhouse, was allegedly setting fires when he came in contact with Rittenhouse. Rosenbaum began chasing Rittenhouse, according to the footage. As he was being chased, a protester identified as Alexander Blaine fired a shot.
The nonprofit group stated in a voice-over in the footage that Rittenhouse was cornered by Rosenbaum and fired four shots at him to escape because he did not know who had fired the first shot. Three other shots were fired by an unknown shooter moments later.
“With a total of eight shots fired, it remains unclear that Rosenbaum’s wounds were caused by Rittenhouse,” the nonprofit organization stated.
Carlson’s argument is pretty compelling, or at least the video evidence here is. It makes pretty clear that neither shooting incidents were started by Rittenhouse, which is one crucial element for a self-defense case, although it’s not the only element required. In both scenes, Rittenhouse was clearly running away, and in the second he had already been repeatedly assaulted. The alleged gunshot in the first confrontation immediately preceded Rittenhouse’s fire as men allegedly armed with blunt-force weapons ran up on Rittenhouse.
This still requires a couple of caveats — one in each direction. While we have what appears to be compelling evidence, what we don’t have is all of the evidence. In fact, we don’t even have proper foundation (yet) to ensure that this actually is evidence in the first shooting. (Res ipsa loquitor on the second incident, we can assume.) Just because a defense attorney claims it as such does not necessarily mean it’s so, after all.
However, if the provenance of these videos can be established, then what we have here is a large amount of reasonable doubt for self-defense. Defendants don’t have to prove themselves innocent; prosecutors have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and have to deal with self-defense claims in order to succeed. All the defense has to argue for lethal force in self-defense is that all of the required elements were present: a reasonable person would have felt their lives or grave bodily harm threatened, the defendant had not initiated the incident, he only used the force necessary to end the perceived threat, and in many jurisdictions that he attempted to flee. The defense doesn’t have to prove self-defense; the prosecutors have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it doesn’t apply.
If prosecutors charged Rittenhouse before seeing these videos, they rushed to judgment. If they charged Rittenhouse after seeing these videos, then some other motive than justice is in play here, especially in the second shootings where Rittenhouse was in the middle of an aggravated assault after attempting to retreat. And how they expect a jury to convict after watching these videos is beyond comprehension.
In fact, one has to wonder whether these charges will ever see a courtroom. Rittenhouse may have exercised poor judgment in entering a riot zone with a firearm, but that’s not the same thing as initiating a confrontation, nor is attempting to extinguish a fire started by arsonists. At some point, prosecutors are going to have to explain their charging decisions in light of this video evidence, and that will not be a comfortable experience, either in court or among their constituents.
The full footage from Fight Back, is here. Be warned that it is graphic in places, and might be disturbing to some viewers. And keep in mind that we’re not sure yet whether this is all of the video or context in this case yet, as compelling as this might be.