A jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of homicide and other charges Friday –  a story that has played out as both a legal drama and a political flashpoint.

Everything is political. Every issue creates deep divisions between established sides. Rittenhouse’s trial became an occasion for celebration among conservatives as well as liberals. It was a symbol of larger disagreements about gun rights, self-defense and greater social justice concerns.

As such, it was covered.

Rittenhouse was found innocent of five charges at a Kenosha (Wisconsin) courtroom. In August 2020 Rittenhouse shot and killed two men and wounded a third during unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he traveled from his home in Illinois. He claimed he went there to provide security during social-justice protests that had turned violent days after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis officer two months earlier, social-justice demonstrations were held in many cities.

“Absolutely No Words”:Gabrielle Union and Megyn Kelly are just a few of the celebrities who reacted to Kyle Rittenhouse’s verdict

Initial coverage by CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC was very similar

Speaking to the media after the trial ended, Mark Richards, one of Rittenhouse’s attorneys, said that he knew some people would always believe that Rittenhouse had no business being in Kenosha, much less armed with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle.

“I think if we all would just mind our own business a little bit I think we’d all be better off,” Richards said. “I think that’s a hard lesson to learn.”

But couldn’t the same be said about Rittenhouse, a reporter asked. It was the exact question that should have been asked after a statement like that.

“It could be,” Richards said. “He was asked to be there. He wanted to help the community.”

CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC had journalists on the ground. Their initial coverage, as is typical for most news stories, was very similar.

It was for a little while.

One Fox News anchor John Roberts said, “So many people … in this country had convicted Kyle Rittenhouse before he got anywhere near a courtroom.” You wonder what Roberts would have said if the jury convicted Rittenhouse.

Joe Concha later went after Fox News’ host for showing her some of her social posts.

This didn’t take very long.

His next chapter is the Kyle Rittenhouse story, and there are likely to be multiple defamation lawsuits not against all media outlets.” He called out MSNBC’s Joy Reid. TikTok showed Reid comparing Rittenhouse’s testimony during which he cried to the witness stand with that of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh at his Senate confirmation hearing.

Each network called in legal experts to speculate as to why the jury came to its decision; a lot of the blame went toward the prosecution’s handling of the trial.

“They had several missteps, strategic and legal,” Elie Honig said on CNN.

Jonathan Turley on Fox News was harsher.

“The prosecution’s case just fell apart from the outset,” he said. “Their own witnesses gave evidence against the prosecution.”

Paul Butler said on MSNBC that he was “concerned about what this verdict expresses. Trials do not work as a tool to promote social change. Yet, verdicts are important. This case happened during a Black Lives Matter protest over the police shooting of an African American man.”

Political disagreements flared at the Rittenhouse trial

The Second Amendment, Black Lives Matter – the case was a magnet for political disagreement.

Conservatives were quick to praise the verdict. Rep. Paul Gosar was censured Wednesday by the U.S House of Representatives. Andy Biggs, his House colleague, also tweeted support for Rittenhouse.

“NOT GUILTY,” Biggs tweeted. “This is why in America we have trial by jury, not by media.”

There will be more fallout from this verdict. There will be divisions. David Hancock, a spokesman for the Rittenhouse family, told Fox News after the verdict was read that “this family has been just repeatedly attacked with no basis in truth.”

Butler, however, asked MSNBC what the acquittal would mean over the long-term and how it might inspire.

“We know that armed civilians are now part of the American political landscape,” Butler said. “What some may take from this verdict is that vigilante justice prevailed, and that’s a public-safety concern.”

Reach Goodykoontz at [email protected] Facebook: facebook.com/GoodyOnFilm. Twitter: @goodyk.

Source: USAToday.com


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