Thousands of cases a day go through our nation’s court systems, but most do not grab the headlines or scrutiny of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. The power and prejudice this prosecution is wielding should worry anyone who advocates for the fair administration of the rule of law.
As experienced prosecutors who have handled high-profile criminal cases and made difficult charging decisions, we leverage our decades of experience toward advancing reforms that translate to systemic support for the rule of law.
We do not typically engage with the latest case the media has chosen to circus. The probing and insightful Twitter analysis is best left to the great and renowned legal minds of our generation – LeBron James, Alyssa Milano and John Legend. Or better, the thoughts of tenured law professors in maze-like university buildings who pontificate courtroom knowledge from the safety of a quiet corner office.
The Rittenhouse case is different.
Like much of America, over the last couple days we have watched the Rittenhouse prosecutor exhibit the attitude that rules and the judge’s rulings don’t matter.
Rather than apply the law to the facts, the prosecutor has exercised discretion so as to reflect his own self-righteousness, so the ends justify the means. The judge in this case has been criticized by the left and the media for the audacity of not rolling over. Instead, he has fiercely guarded the integrity of the proceedings, the rights of the defendant, and regularly checked the unabashed overreach by the prosecution.
For this reason, the Rittenhouse case is a cautionary tale for conservative legislatures, where debates are waged around whether to infuse prosecutors with more power over the outcome of a criminal case, while reducing the influence of the judge.
Proponents call it truth in sentencing. The result is the tipping of the state’s criminal justice balance of power in favor of prosecutors, who, let’s not forget, are partial actors in this system.
What is happening in Kenosha should give lawmakers pause before choosing this course. The evidence presented in the case by both the prosecution and the defense clearly supports Kyle Rittenhouse’s contention that he acted in self-defense as he attempted to guard property threatened by rioters.
Video evidence shows individuals chasing, attacking and threatening a 17-year-old Rittenhouse with his life, with at least one pointing a gun at him before he fired, and another trying to take his own gun from him while shouting that he was going to kill Rittenhouse. Yet, the prosecution has pursued six criminal charges against him, including first degree reckless homicide and multiple weapons charges.
Prosecutors review the facts, decide charges and determine how the case will resolve. If infused with the unmitigated ability to influence the outcome by a mandatory minimum sentence, the prosecutor also determines the defendant’s sentencing fate.
Simply put, prosecutors are the most powerful actor within the criminal justice system, and since the 1980s, their power has only grown. Luckily for Rittenhouse, Wisconsin has preserved the authority of the judge in a criminal case.
Another issue this case has brought into focus is the abject hypocrisy of wokeness. These woke criminal justice reformers claim to advocate for protecting the rights of a defendant but have lamented over what they perceive as the “pro defense” judge in the Rittenhouse case.
There are some who would otherwise contend that a 17-year-old whose brain is not fully developed should never be charged as an adult, that now call for the young Rittenhouse to be made an example of in facing adult charges.
Those who call for clemencies, commutations, second looks and pardons, and who actively search for mitigating facts to support a petition for the same, would ignore the glaring evidence of Rittenhouse’s self-defense. Those who call for restorative justice would deny the extension of mercy, or even justice, to Rittenhouse simply because he does not fit their political narrative.
Perhaps the most disappointing, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., a co-sponsor of the First Step Act, has publicly called for such aggressively woke policies like the defunding of the prison industrial complex, and yet before all the evidence had even been presented, Jeffries tweeted “Lock up Kyle Rittenhouse and throw away the key.”
A progressive who would withhold justice from someone they do not like is devoid of credibility when discussing criminal justice policy. Period.
The Rittenhouse case has put Americans on notice of some very dangerous ways in which the scales of justice can be perverted. Prosecutors with agendas and woke activists will sacrifice justice to serve their own ends.
Let’s be grateful for a judge willing to safeguard justice from abuse of power or bias. Americans must demand that more judges have the ability to check that power … now back to Kenosha.