Wisconsin recently charged Kyle Rittenhouse with first degree murder for killing two people who were, from what I can see from the videos, attacking him with weapons. Whether Rittenhouse should have been in Kenosha in the first place, and with a weapon a 17-year old cannot legally carry in public, is a separate issue for courts of law to decide. The question at hand is however why he was charged with murder while his surviving alleged assailants were, as far as I know, not charged with anything.
This leads to the need to educate potential jurors (i.e. all citizens who are eligible to serve on juries) proactively about important self-defense principles. This must happen before they are called for jury duty because it is illegal to do so afterward. Jurors need to understand the simple concept of din rodef, “the law of the pursuer.” This gives defense attorneys a single word – rodef — to explain the concept if jurors are not already familiar with it.
Rodef = One Who Pursues
A rodef (plural rodfim) is somebody who pursues somebody else with the objective of causing death or serious physical injury. Din rodef entitles the one pursued, or a bystander, to use reasonable force, up to and including deadly force, to stop the rodef from completing the intended violent crime. The principle is actually very similar to most modern laws. Deadly force cannot be used if lesser force will suffice, and the rodef ceases to be a rodef the instant he desists from his violent actions. Din rodef is also reflected by the modern adages (in the context of a fight or argument) such as “Never follow anybody into the parking lot” and “Never follow the other guy home” because these are prima facie evidence of malicious and violent intent. It’s hard for a rodef to claim innocence or self-defense when things go bad.
The first Rittenhouse video shows clearly that he was running away from another man, presumably Joseph Rosenbaum, who apparently threw something at him. Rittenhouse was therefore trying to avoid a violent confrontation while Rosenbaum, as best I can tell from the video, was the rodef who insisted on having it. He got what he wanted as in, “Stupid game, stupid prize.” The following opinions are based solely on what can be seen from the videos, and there may well be additional evidence. If I were on the jury I would, on the basis of just the video, toss the charges against Rittenhouse unless the prosecutor could show me very convincing evidence that the incident was not as it seemed.
The second Rittenhouse video shows clearly that Rittenhouse was running away from a mob of no fewer than four individuals whose numbers, even if unarmed, gave them disparity of force which is the same as deadly force. The audio includes explicit violent threats such as “get him” and “get his ass” to which CBS adds, “Beat him up!” While the individuals claimed later that they were trying to take Rittenhouse into custody for shooting Rosenbaum, “get his ass” and “beat him up” sound a lot more like an intention to take the law into their own hands. Even if they were in fact seeking to only apprehend Rittenhouse, which I doubt, their mantle of innocence went out the window the instant they said “beat him up.”
The individuals in question, having apparently not learned from seeing one person shot for chasing Rittenhouse, made themselves into rodfim and, when Rittenhouse fell to the ground, went at him with a skateboard allegedly wielded by Anthony Huber and a pistol allegedly wielded by the survivor, Gaige Grosskreutz. If this is the whole story then my verdict as a juror would be “Another stupid game, two more stupid prizes.”
In addition, while Huber’s past conduct did not entitle anybody to harm him except in self-defense, he was no angel if he was the same Anthony M. Huber cited in Kenosha County Case Number 2012CF001346. The deceased Anthony M. Huber’s age (26) is consistent with the felon’s date of birth in August 1996 which suggests they are the same; the former’s friends are welcome to correct me if they are not.
Rodfim Menace Others as Well
There is another video in which a swarm of anarchists laid hands on somebody’s car, whereupon the driver accelerated (not very quickly, he was trying not to hurt anybody) and hit several of the individuals in question. Then he slowed down in an attempt to drive away without causing further harm. The anarchists in question, who obviously learned nothing from the first time, made themselves into rodfim by running after the vehicle with the result that the motorist had to again use his accelerator pedal with obvious consequences.
There is yet another video in which literally dozens of rodfim ran after a man and his daughter because they were unhappy that the latter were wearing patriotic costumes. The rodfim made verbal and/or visible violent threats, and they had the immediate means at hand (disparity of force) to put the threats into effect, which are the two prerequisites for a deadly force response. That is how I would decide this one as a juror, especially if those pursued were unable to run as fast as this father and his daughter.
“Backing somebody into a corner” or “not allowing him to leave” is a variant of din rodef. Here is another video in which about a dozen Black Lives Matter anarchists surround a diner in a restaurant with raised fists, and their body language is (from my perspective) physically intimidating. They also enjoy disparity of force. While I agree with Kenny Rogers’ Coward of the County’s “walk away from trouble if you can,” they have also denied the person they are menacing the option of doing exactly that.
notice that when the sound of gun fire is heard, everyone vanishes and run to hide? Why? “from a place you will never see and a sound you will never hear” the meaning is self explanatory.
Rittenhouse’s legitimate self defense is not ambiguous at all. It will be the job of the Democrat prosecutor to make it ambiguous, then prosecute him for that ambiguity.