The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse has been fairly interesting for lawyers, particularly given the decision to put the defendant on the stand given that the trial had been going quite well for the defense and there is nothing more risky than having a defendant testify. No matter how well prepped, how sincere, how innocent (or guilty), it’s a crap shoot. One never knows what will come out of a defendant’s mouth under the stress of courtroom testimony. Even the best defendant can implode on the stand.
But the notion of a public trial includes not only the defendant’s interest in not being railroaded behind closed doors, but that the public has faith in the legal system reaching a fair verdict by hearing with its own ears, seeing with its own eyes, the testimony proffered, the arguments made, the instructions given, so that the public understands how a verdict was reached. How’s that going?
Social media has a wealth of people on the left, the same ones who are deeply empathetic to defendants of color, to end mass incarceration, to abolish police, to elect progressive prosecutors, and a litany of other progressive outcomes, who have lost their minds over this trial. There appear to be a few “beliefs” that are so deeply embedded and widely spread that they have become immutable truths in the narrative. They include:
- The judge is completely biased in favor of Rittenhouse
- The prosecution is part of the grift, throwing the case
- The law favors white supremacist vigilantes who kill black people and protesters
- When a person breaks the law by illegally possessing an assault rifle, crossing state lines, going to a place where violence is imminent for the purpose of “hunting” protesters to kill, the person should not be allowed to avail himself of self-defense
The trial is being broadcast for all to see, for the sake of making this extremely controversial trial public so that people will understand both the law and the facts, and thus have faith that the legal system will produce a fair and proper outcome. Is it working?
As a general proposition, it is a tenet of progressive thought that the end justifies the means, such that the only “good” outcome is a “good” outcome, regardless of what it took to get there. Consequently, a trial ruling, a perception of evidence or a verdict that fails to comport with the desired outcome is inherently bad and wrong, since it’s impossible to be good or right if it doesn’t achieve the desired goal. Lie, cheat or steal, the only thing that matters is that the right outcome is achieved. In this case, the only acceptable outcome would be a verdict that Kyle Rittenhouse is guilty of murder. And that does not look likely at the moment.
When a bad outcome appears inevitable, rationalizations appear out of the ether to explain how things could possibly go so very wrong. After all, a fair legal system couldn’t possibly acquit Rittenhouse because he’s guilty. Not because of what happened, not because of the law, but because that’s the verdict reached in the Court of Social Justice. No matter how many lawyers explain that the judge’s rulings, from the in limine motion to preclude the prosecution from calling the deceaseds “victims” to Judge Schroeder’s admonishing the prosecutor, Thomas Binger, for trying to use Rittenhouse’s exercise of his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent as evidence of guilt, to seeking to use propensity evidence that had been precluded against him, were both correct and within the bounds of normal trial practice, these are seen as absolute outrages by the unwary. Each instance that “surprises” the unduly passionate by not coming out the way their motivated reasoning would suggest becomes another piece of irrefutable evidence of how broken, how “fixed,” the legal system is.
To add insult to injury, it’s not just the unduly passionate activists crying that this is a travesty of “justice,” but it’s being supported by some lawyers of the left and progressive prawfs. And those pundits who are trying to smooth over, at least a little bit, the more outlandishly ridiculous claims of impropriety are being denigrated as closet racists for not joining the chorus of this grave injustice being perpetrated by white supremacists.
Like other well-intended ideas about the law, that having statutes and caselaw online would enable non-lawyers to become more legally literate, more capable of understanding how the law works and why, the public trial has fallen prey to ideology. It’s bad enough that non-lawyers promote and spread legal gibberish among themselves despite the fact that the law is readily available for them to see, to read, to learn, to understand, if they chose to do so. Why bother to know when it’s easier, and far more fun, to just spew whatever nonsense supports your ends?
The Chauvin trial for the killing of George Floyd generated extreme interest, but the trial was far more competently prosecuted, the evidence of guilt was more clear, and the outcome was a conviction, so as much as it raised concerns and attacks against the defense lawyers for that thing the progressive public rejects, defending the “guilty,” it always seemed that the “right” outcome would happen and it did, as the defendant was found guilty.
This time is different. This time, there appears to be a possibility, if not a probability, that the verdict will be not guilty. This time, the rationalizations for why the system is so terrible and cannot be allowed to continue have become ubiquitous. The public trial isn’t doing the trick of allowing people, no matter which side they favor, to see “justice” being done so that they can rest assured that the legal system, with all its warts, works. This time, watching the system work hasn’t given rise to public confidence in its integrity, but to prove that the system is fixed.
And if this isn’t bad enough, there is a threat that the identities of jurors, should there be an acquittal, will be made public so their lives can be ruined if they reach the “wrong” verdict. After all, if an acquittal is bad, then the jurors must be evil and deserve to be the outed and destroyed.