How (Not) to Respond to a Celebrated Trial Verdict
Trials and Veridicts Are Not Political Campaigns or Elections. Sadly, We Treat Them Like Sporting Events.
Call me an outlier, but I’m not one of those cheering or condemning the verdict from the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.
That’s because judicial trials, especially jury trials, are not political campaigns. Or, they shouldn’t be treated as such. We cheer for justice based on the preponderance of evidence courtesy of a jury of peers fairly selected and a trial well-administered by a seasoned judge. At least, we’re supposed to.
We honor, trust, and respect, not celebrate or condemn, the verdict. A verdict clarifies and illuminates. That’s the way it is supposed to work. Whether we may agree or not. We must recognize that we are not a member of the jury until we are.
But it doesn’t matter anymore, especially in the cesspool of social media and the swamps of mainstream media. Where all things are political. Today’s celebrated trials are no different from football games, where we show up in our jerseys, seating ourselves on the right side of the field, and cheering for our team to win while trashing the referees and challenging the outcomes. We are beginning to resemble the fall of the Roman Empire.
That’s not how the legal system is supposed to work - you know, “justice”. Yet how many of you were cheering for a specific verdict based on the narratives we’d bought into? What happened with waiting for the system to actually, you know, work?
The Rittenhouse trial is tragic on many levels. A young man - a teenager - without a father at home may never be allowed to have an everyday life. He will be forever known as, well, Kyle Rittenhouse of Kenosha fame, or infamy, depending on your predetermined political biases. Death threats will probably never end.
Two men, both without fathers and with criminal records - one a convicted pedophile - are dead. Another young man, also possibly sans a father and a lengthy rap sheet, was seriously wounded.
Spot a trend here? Maybe that’s where our focus should be.
A presidential candidate, Joe Biden, and scores of media personalities smeared and possibly defamed a teenager as a “white supremacist” without a shred of evidence. But it was politically convenient. We do have anti-defamation laws, but they are hard if not impossible to prosecute, especially for a teenager against powerful, entrenched politicians and media. But Kyle does have precedent, courtesy of Nicholas Sandmann. Do I need to remind you of his story? The Washington Post and others settled a defamation suit out of court. Sandmann is financially set for life as a result.
And Kyle Rittenhouse, in fairness, probably has a stronger case against both media outlets and politicians who smeared him without evidence (looking at you, Joy Ried) and a presidential candidate now sitting in the White House. Lawyer up, dudes, because he might have a case.
Call me old-fashioned and naive, but what happened to respect for our institutions and especially our system of justice? They’re not perfect, of course, but at least our third branch of government mostly still works. Under much duress.
Those who smeared Rittenhouse as a “white supremacist” or a “vigilante” were clearly proven wrong if not malicious and defamatory during the trial. Just as with George Zimmerman (Trayvon Martin) and so many others who were falsely accused and even deemed guilty in social media when it was convenient for political purposes. And that was the point, wasn’t it? The narrative rules, no matter the truth.
The Rittenhouse trial and verdict prove that our system of justice still works, if tenuously. The prosecutors brought their case. The evidence was presented, if inartfully and incompetently. The judge presided cautiously and prudently, if not colorfully. And the carefully-sequestered jury decided after nearly three days of careful deliberation. Apparent efforts to intimidate the jury were not successful. Thank God.
The verdict was unanimous. We should respect it and move on. Forget “Build Back Better.” Give me, “Bring Back America.” And give Kyle and everyone else a chance to rebuild their shattered lives.