Jurors in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Friday declared Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts, capping off an intense trial surrounding the deadly unrest in that city last summer.
Rittenhouse, 18, would have faced a mandatory life sentence if found guilty and convicted of first-degree intentional homicide.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better jury to work with and it has truly been my pleasure,” Judge Bruce Schroeder said after delivering the verdict. “I think, without commenting on your verdict, the verdicts themselves, just in terms of your attentiveness and the cooperation that you gave to us, justifies the confidence that the founders of our country placed in you so I dismiss you at this time.”
He continued: “You’re never under any obligation to discuss any aspect of this case with anyone. You’re welcome to do so as little or as much as you want.”
Rittenhouse spokesperson Dave Hancock told Fox News that “it’s clear as day” Rittenhouse “defended himself.”
“I believe they were cerebral and they thought about every piece of the jury instructions,” he said. “So, justice was done for Kyle. He gets to live life as a free young man.”
Rittenhouse attorney Marc Richards that he represents “clients,” not “causes,” and that if the 18-year-old “wanted somebody to go off on a crusade,” he wouldn’t represent him in the case. He added that he was “afraid of a compromise.”
The verdict came on the fourth day of deliberations and 15th day of the trial.
“The jury has represented our community in this trial and has spoken,” Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger said Friday after the verdict.
He added in a later statement: We are grateful to the members of the jury for their diligent and thoughtful deliberations. The Kenosha community has endured much over the past 15 months and yet we remain resilient and strong. We ask that the members of our community continue express their opinions and feelings about this verdict in a civil and peaceful manner.”
Jurors deliberated for a total of 26 hours and found Rittenhouse not guilty on five counts including first-degree reckless homicide, two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment. Judge Bruce Schroeder had previously dismissed two additional counts related to his weapon.
The jury was made up of seven women and five men, including one male person of color. Schroeder said Friday that jurors were allowed to speak to the media if they so wished, but none commented as they left the courthouse on Friday after the verdict. Many left with masks and put their hoods up as they exited.
Local officers, media and protesters were seen positioned around the Kenosha County Courthouse Friday.
Rittenhouse was facing the five charges after he fatally shot two people and injured a third person during the second night of civil unrest in Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020. His attorneys argued that the then-17-year-old was acting in self-defense after being attacked from behind when he shot Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, as well as deceased Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26 in the riots following the police shooting of a 29-year-old Black man, Jacob Blake.
The judge tossed one charge of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 on Monday after Rittenhouse’s defense team argued that a subsection of the law concerning short-barreled rifles was grounds for dismissal.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Friday called the verdict “an outrageous failure to protect protesters by the Kenosha Police Department and Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office.”
“Despite Kyle Rittenhouse’s conscious decision to travel across state lines and injure one person and take the lives of two people protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake by police, he was not held responsible for his actions. Unfortunately, this is not surprising,” the nonprofit said in a Friday tweet.
Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney who represented George Floyd, called Rittenhouse “a racist, homicidal vigilante who, like so many white men before him, not only escaped accountability, but laughed in its face,” in a Friday statement.
“Today, I pray for the victims, I pray for our country, I pray for our children and grandchildren, and I pray that this travesty of a case is an outlier on our path to a more just system, and not a signal of retreat backwards,” he said. “Because, we simply can’t afford it.”
Politicians and celebrities were split on the verdict, with Republicans and right-leaning personalities cheering the jury’s decision and Democrats and left-leaning personalities criticizing what they described as a failure of the justice system.
President Biden on Friday said he “didn’t watch the trial” but stands by “what the jury has concluded.”
“The jury system works and we have to abide by it,” he said.
In a statement issued later on Friday afternoon, Biden said in a statement: “While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken. I ran on a promise to bring Americans together, because I believe that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. I know that we’re not going to heal our country’s wounds overnight, but I remain steadfast in my commitment to do everything in my power to ensure that every American is treated equally, with fairness and dignity, under the law.”
He added that “violence and destruction of property have no place in our democracy.”
This is a developing story; check back for updates.
Fox News’ Jiovanni Lieggi and Peter Doocy contributed to this report.