“It said, I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him.”– Harry Chapin
As we follow the Jacob Rittenhouse trial we are left with the feeling that all of this is going to go away. Rittenhouse testified yesterday and he seemed like the typical adolescent kid that never wanted any of this to happen, but got himself mixed up in this somehow.
Rittenhouse’s lawyers are seeking a mistrial and if it’s granted he will go home without suffering any consequences. Obviously, the prosecution shouldn’t be breaking the rules, but this case has been going down the tubes from the very beginning. When the judge decided that the victims weren’t victims and that they could be called arsonists, rioters, and any other name in the book we knew the fix was in.
Every parent goes through this moment at some point. Their kid does something stupid. They do something stupid and something bad happens. Most of the time it is innocent enough. Our daughter got her phone wet and now it doesn’t work. She wants a new phone. She’s not going to get one until she can afford to pay for it. These are the decisions that parents make on the regular.
Every once in awhile, a kid does something so horrible that all of the tough love in the world can’t atone for it. Whether Rittenhouse wanted any of this to happen is immaterial. I’m sure he didn’t. The crocodile tears are all fine and dandy, but they don’t bring back the victims. We can call the victims anything else, but at the end of the day they were unarmed people that got shot because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If we move beyond theories of jurisprudence and high minded ideals about how the justice system should work we get back to the very basic story of a kid that did a dumb thing. The problem is that he can’t work it off. He can’t do enough community service to make up for it. Two people are dead. They are never coming back.
If we wipe away all the procedure and legal shenanigans we come away with some very basic questions. What exactly was his intent when he brought a weapon he was not legally allowed to have across state lines (also illegal)? What was his intent when he took that gun, waived it around like some Clint Eastwood wannabe? We also ask what has he learned and whether he poses a danger to society moving forward.
These are questions we always ask. Knowing intent is very important and knowing the likelihood of them being a danger again is important. He may never bring an AR-15 to a political demonstration again, but you have to wonder if someone with such poor judgment should get to cry on the stand, say he’s sorry, and go home like nothing ever happened.
Anyone with half a brain knows what happened. Whether it was intentional or just a series of unfortunate events doesn’t particularly matter. Sure, I guess it matters as a thought exercise and it matters when discussing sentencing, but a kid illegally brought a gun to a place he didn’t need to be so he could provide a service he was never trained for and wasn’t hired to do. Maybe he secretly wanted to shoot someone that night or maybe those around him just thought he did. When you take enough steps backwards you realize that none of that matters. The victims are dead and it was Jacob Rittenhouse’s gun that killed them. These are the facts of the case and they are undisputed.
What is in dispute is exactly what should happen. Only someone with the wisdom of Solomon could accurately pinpoint exactly what that is. I know a few things. Those two lives are not a cell phone that got wet. They aren’t a picture that a kid clumsily broke. They aren’t even a car that a teenager totaled. You can’t pay them off. You can’t ground him or take his phone away for a couple of weeks and call it good. More needs to happen and a mistrial might be legally defensible, but morally it stinks to high heaven.