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Juries decide verdicts, not public opinion

On Friday, the jury in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse delivered a verdict of not guilty on all five counts in the killing of two men and the wounding of another during the protests following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white Kenosha, Wis. police officer.

This was a case fraught with the strong racial and emotional elements of the George Floyd murder. This case also included arguments over vigilantism and gun control.

There are strong opinions on both sides, those who say Rittenhouse was a vigilante who went to Kenosha from out of state looking for trouble, and those who say he was a kid who put himself in a bad situation where he had to defend himself.

In a case like this, public opinion doesn’t matter. The courts don’t take polls to see what the majority thinks of someone’s guilt or innocence. Instead, a jury is empaneled to hear the evidence, deliberate over it, and come up with a verdict. The jury in Kenosha decided Rittenhouse did act in self-defense and was not guilty of a crime.

There is a lot wrong with Rittenhouse’s actions — a 17-year-old should not be buying an AR-15-style rifle and it was a bad idea for him to decide he needed to go to Kenosha with that rifle to protect someone else’s property.

But the jury decided he was not guilty of murder. In our society, with our system of justice, the decisions of the jury are respected. People may not agree with them, but the decision has been made.

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