The People Vs. Mr. Rittenhouse – An Apolitical Socratic Dialogue

This essay was inspired by and provoked while browsing Reddit looking for someone to help me fix a key on my laptop. So I read the thread and, seeing a trend, thought I would write something in the matter of an inquisitorial dialogue but, since I don’t want to lose the rest of my day responding to people whose minds are made up and whose opinions will not change, I thought it might be interesting to post it here without editing as an example of argumentative reasoning in law. After al, I did write a bachelor’s thesis in Law for B. Cooper, a dear friend, for the extremely generous gift of 1 Netflix account.

Worth it.


Part 1:

BREAkING THE LAW, BREAKING’ THE LAW




1: Defining parameters wherein one can and cannot act;
 10 CFR § 1047.7 [https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/10/1047.7]

  • Deadly force which means force which a reasonable person would consider likely to cause death or bodily harm. Its use may be justified only under conditions of extreme necessity, when all lesser means* have failed or cannot be reasonably employed.

  • Self-Defense. When dead force reasonably appears to protect a protective force officer who reasonably believes himself or herself to be in imminent danger of death or seriously bodily harm.

    Additional considerations involving firearms: If it becomes necessary to use a firearm, the following precautions shall be observed:
    (1) A warning, e.g. an order to halt, shall be given, if feasible, before a shot is fired.
    (2) warning shots shall not be fired.


Its use may be justified only under conditions of extreme necessity, when all lesser means have failed.

As far as I know, Mr. Rittenhouse went into a volatile situation with the means of employing deadly force, and there are numerous studies which demonstrate that the likelihood of a fatal encounter increases when one has the means to affect deadly force; that is to say, if he simply in Kenosha to counter-protest, clean walls or exercise his civic right of protest without a gun, is it likely he would end up needing to use deadly force? The question might be better put, if those who attacked this young man, should they be more or less likely to assess his presence as a threat and act given the fact that he is carrying an automatic rifle?

This is not a debate about the 2nd amendment, nor is it political – it is a matter of law and reason.

What I think makes this difficult to defend is that he went into an area wherein the likelihood of conflict was extremely high and brought with him an implement which statistics show would make it more likely that he would engage the firearm. Someone in his position without a weapon would be less likely to be in that position, therefore, the carrying of an assault rifle is threatening and intimidating and invites conflict.

Now, what compounds this further is the possibility this act of self-defense could have seen three people dead. How does this work, exactly? After the first act of defense, would someone not conclude that the situation has gotten out of control and—using their weapon legally—clear their field of vision and withdraw to safety rather than continue defending? First, the first shooting which appears to demonstrate Mr. Rittenhouse being pursued by a group and a gunshot ringing out, an unknown gunman firing without clear motive. In the footage I viewed, the muzzle flash was plain to see. Then Mr. Rittenhouse turns toward the sound of the gunfire and it appears a man runs toward him. At the time, Mr. Rittenhouse fired four times and seemingly shot the man in the head.

This – while overall questionable in its context – is a legitimate and sound claim to defending oneself as per the criteria of self-defense. A man lunged at him, he thought himself to be in great danger, and he acted to protect his person. Fine, this neglects to consider the implications of going to such a protest, with such a mindset, with such views and carrying an assault rifle – but on its own, this qualifies.

 Anything afterward, once the scene has been cleared and Mr. Rittenhouse has neutralized this threat, I believe it has been said he made a phone call and then fled the scene. At that moment, he has defended himself and someone is dead, and yet would anyone hear not think a potential shooter was active upon hearing the report of such a weapon? My father was a military officer, and I learned to shoot with an SKS; an AR-15 and AK-47 are loud, jarring weapons to hear. It is entirely possible that anyone in that scenario might think there is an active shooter.

Mr. Rittenhouse could have immediately dialed 911 and waited, but let us move on. In the second shooting, leading up to it there were several people chasing him and shouting “that’s the shooter!” – which gives credence to the idea that the prevailing thought was that there was an active shooter who intended something like, hell, who knows? In America you see dozens die at concerts and nightclubs. When Mr. Rittenhouse falls, he fires four more shots as people rush toward him.

Here is my most serious question: if those attempting to apprehend him think he’s just there to help, why would they approach a man with a military assault rifle who has already killed someone—unless there is true and honest belief among those in pursuit that he has been and is continuing to perpetuate a mass shooting? Who chases someone so armed unless they believe them to be a danger to others? And, firing four shots Mr. Rittenhouse seems to hit another in the chest, as the figure falls to the ground. Another, who is in possession of a handgun, is hit in the arm and flees. There were something like 15-19 gunshots in this clip, so I do not pretend to know the exact details. What I do know is that no one – and not one person here – would attempt to apprehend a man carrying an AR-15 assault rifle unless you believed they were committing a crime, in this case the potential mass shooting would be the only potential impetus behind anyone pursuing him. Otherwise, why chase him? They didn’t like his face? What is most logical, if you were in this crowd and you believed there was an active shooter, would you attempt to stop him?

Give me any other logical reason why those who pursued him after he proved himself to be capable of defending his person with deadly force. Two people are now dead,  and anyone there would be justified in thinking an active shooting situation was taking place. If I recall correctly, at this time, there are police vehicles less than a block away yet each remain stationary during the gunfire. Currently, Mr. Rittenhouse approaches the vehicles with his hands. Bystanders try to signal the officers that he has been shooting people – again, the consistent belief that a mass casualty event is taking place puts those involved – opposite Mr. Rittenhouse’s weapon, in the position to believe they are trying to stop a potential mass murderer. Nothing else explains every other action of the evening. I have read all the testimony, listened to each motion and watched the entirety of the tria thus far; I have read the police reports and have spoken to practicing attorneys, foremost among them my sister whose time in law school afforded me a decent education, thankfully she could afford me.

One thing I came across which absolutely goes to mens rae and demonstrates – possibly – intent, was the video withheld from evidence that shows came across a video in which he sees protesters from afar and his comments are to the effect of “Wish I had my AR” – the people he is referencing are nowhere near him, but he makes it known that he sees protesters – of the opposite political / ideological affiliation as himself – and thinks only of solving it with violence.

The length of this post is only justified so that I can be clear as possible. In the situation, in a protest that has turned into a ruckus, anyone who fires a gun puts the entire crowd on death ground. They must defend themselves or leave the scene, and those who remain all have as much a right to attempt to defend themselves from someone carrying a military assault rifle as Mr. Rittenhouse had to attend the protests and guard his station. I cannot fathom nor believe it possible to explain this course of events, wherein those who pursued him – under the impression he was killing people – were any more of a threat to Mr. Rittenhouse than he was to them. Subsequent events proved they were less of a threat, as Kyle was not wounded and conversely he had killed two people.

If you were in this crowd and saw such an action, would you not think it possible that you were witnessing a mass shooting? Would the more brave or rather, the more foolhardy among you not attempt to “stop” someone you think is going on a fucking spree? His act of self-defense was necessitated by his actions alone, his presence and when you go to a chaotic scene carrying a weapon and, after shooting someone, think that should anyone attempt to stop you from doing that again, shooting more people for trying to stop you is not defending yourself in any legal manner. Your presence and prior actions have alerted those in the crowd to your presence and the threat you represent, which proved very real and two people lost their lives. To justify the usage of self-defense, you can’t start the fight and then, when someone reacts in kind or attempts to stop you, continue to shoot and claim all of those were innocent, unfortunate acts of self defense. His presence invited conflict, his weapon ensured he would engage rather than withdraw, and had I been there in the dark, in the chaos, and believed there was an active shooter, I’m not sure what I would do.

I am only speaking my mind, my opinions, and I don’t think anyone is dumb, or stupid if they disagree. I’m only engaging in the dialogue, and I can understand why others can look at this case and see something completely different. But, I do not think this way because of politics, because of how I feel about Mr. Rittenhouse; I’m an artist, for one, and politics ruins everything; and two, I’m sorry he endured this, whether his presence invited conflict and his intent guaranteed it or not; he will live with the weight of death on him for the remainder of his life. I empathize with him, and with those who perished, and I do so without cynicism, with all the sincerity I have.

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