(NewsNation Now) — The acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse set off charged discourse about the message the jury’s decision means for racial injustice and public safety.
Rittenhouse killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and injured Gaige Grosskreutz, now 27 in Kenosha, Wisconsin during a night of protests after police shot Jacob Blake in 2020.
Rittenhouse was cleared on all charges Friday — first-degree intentional homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety. He faced a life sentence if he was convicted of the first charge, and the others could have kept him behind bars for decades on their own.
Huber’s parents released a statement slamming the verdict and said their son was denied justice.
“Today’s verdict means there is no accountability for the person who murdered our son,” the statement said in part. “It sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting.”
Kimberly Motley and Milo Schwab, attorneys for Rosenbaum’s estate, and Grosskreutz condemned the verdict while calling for peace in its wake.
“What we need right now is justice, not more violence,” their statement said. “While today’s verdict may mean justice delayed, it will not mean justice denied. We are committed to uncovering the truth of that night and holding those responsible to account.”
Jurors had no comment when NewsNation approached them after the trial. Once the trial ends, jurors have the right to go public.
President Joe Biden said he stood by the verdict. “The jury system works,” he told a crowd of reporters outside the White House Friday afternoon after his colonoscopy.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers released a lengthy statement but did not comment on whether he thought the verdict was just.
“No verdict will be able to bring back the lives of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, or heal Gaige Grosskreutz’s injuries, just as no verdict can heal the wounds or trauma experienced by Jacob Blake and his family,” Evers wrote. “No ruling today changes our reality in Wisconsin that we have work to do toward equity, accountability, and justice that communities across our state are demanding and deserve.”
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) applauded the jury’s decision and wrote, “I hope everyone can accept the verdict, remain peaceful, and let the community of Kenosha heal and rebuild.”
Former President Donald Trump congratulated Rittenhouse in a statement.
The verdict also sparked an array of reactions on social media.
“Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted. “Justice, due process, and the unalienable right to self-defense won today. As did an innocent young man. Now we pray for peace.”
Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) offered Rittenhouse an internship in an Instagram story.
The National Rifle Association tweeted the text of the second amendment.
But critics of the ruling, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say a 17-year-old man bringing an AR-15 to a city that he did not live in and then killing two people with it during protests should have amounted to a crime.
“Carrying a loaded gun into a community 20 miles from your home and shooting unarmed citizens is fundamentally wrong,” Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat, said in a statement.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) called it “white supremacy in action.”
“The Rittenhouse case has pulled back the curtain on profound cracks in our justice system — from deep bias routinely and unabashedly displayed by the judge, to apathy of officers who witnessed Rittenhouse’s actions and did nothing,” attorney Ben Crump tweeted.
But Angela Cenedella, a lawyer and legal analyst, told NewsNation this case does not set precedent.
“I think it’s dangerous for people to take this and say ‘this means XYZ about our country,'” she said on NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Friday. “I think truly it means the jury did its job here very narrowly, very specifically, which is all you can do in a criminal justice case.”
Criminal defense attorney April Preyar said she was not surprised but disappointed by the verdict.
“I don’t think that this was a typical self-defense claim,” told NewsNation. “I think that the interaction between Mr. Rittenhouse and Mr. Rosenbaum was so unequal in terms of power dynamics, that there’s no way that this could have been self-defense. In fact, it was murder. But the jury came to a different conclusion, obviously.”