Is Kyle Rittenhouse a Scared Teen or Defender of Liberty?

The defense team for 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse portrays him as a patriot in the media for the death of two protesters in Kenosha, Wis.

Rittenhouse was accused of shooting Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber to death and injuring a third, Gaige Grosskreutz, as they protested the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August. 

“Kyle Rittenhouse will go down in American history alongside that brave unknown patriot … who fired ‘The Shot Heard Round the World,” said John Pierce, lead attorney, in a tweet that was later deleted. 

Criminal Justice Professor Sindee Kerker explains that such analogies comparing Rittenhouse to a brave patriot pertain to a second amendment argument because, “he is a 17-year-old trying to protect businesses that were being burnt down, and along with the amendment you have the right to bear arms.” 

“There’s nothing wrong with him guarding these businesses, the case really falls under a self-defense claim, and it’s really a matter
of interpretation of facts,” said Kerker. “That’s really his best defense to focus on, that one, and not his second amendment. He might win on that.” 

Rittenhouse’s attorneys painted him as a heroic defender of the community, which has helped raise close to $2 million for his defense. There is debate about whether turning this case into a fight for freedom, instead of a self- defense case, could backfire for Rittenhouse. Under the sixth amendment, people are entitled to the right to conflict-free counsel, as explained by a former Partner of Pierce’s firm, Eric Creizman. 

“There is a potential conflict here … you’re not paying the fees but other people are 

paying your fees, and these are people that are devoted to a cause or whatnot, and you have to understand that the lawyers who
are being paid by these people may feel an obligation, maybe, to encourage you to go to trial because of an adherence to a cause,” said Creizman. 

According to Creizman, the conflict is only potential since the judge can have appointed counsel to talk with Rittenhouse privately. Rittenhouse will then have the option to waive his right to conflict-free counsel and move ahead with his current defense team. 

“A 17-year-old citizen is being sacrificed by politicians, but it’s not Kyle Rittenhouse they are after. Their end game is to strip away the constitutional right of all citizens to defend our communities,” said Rittenhouse’s defense team in a YouTube video created by their #FightBack Foundation. 

Kerker expounds that, in her opinion, rhetoric such as this is a strategy to align people that strongly support the second amendment with Rittenhouse. 

“I think that what they are trying to do is appeal to the media and the people, and they’re trying to get support through social media, and some of these people in the media eventually will become jurors,” said Kerker. 

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