A Proper Rittenhouse Verdict and No Mass Rioting: A Great Day for America | Opinion

In the hours leading up to the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict on Friday, I braced for one of two terrible developments: Either the jury would fail to deliver the acquittal demanded by the evidence, or a proper verdict would send America's cities into another storm of horrific civil unrest.

Well, will wonders never cease? The jury ruled properly, and the riots anticipated by many did not materialize—unless you count the dumpster fires of rhetoric that spread through the halls of a media that had largely rooted for a conviction from the beginning.

Based on the narrative of a large percentage of what now passes as "reporting," Kyle Rittenhouse was a malicious young white supremacist thug who violated gun laws to carry out his sinister wish to infiltrate a peaceful protest with the hopes of killing black people. The absence of a single shred of trial evidence to support those insinuations deterred few.

This is what led to my rattled optimism as the jury deliberated. I knew what the evidence had shown: It was not my whiteness or my conservatism or any personal affinity for the young defendant, but the clear indication through testimony and actual video that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. Nothing else mattered. We are all free to admire or condemn a teenager arming up and heading into a flaming trouble spot. We can support or oppose the laws that enabled him to do so. But those laws are what they are, and the jury fought through the noise and reached a decision supported by those laws and the evidence.

I was not sure they would do so. Jurors are human. And in this case, they were also unsequestered—an absurd decision that left them prone to nefarious influence by an outside world filled with the belief that an acquittal might lead to hellscapes of urban chaos. As the days of deliberation ticked by, it was easy to wonder whether there were jurors prepared to acquit, but inhibited by fear of the potential consequences in their city, their country or in their personal lives.

If there were such hesitations, they were superseded by the factors that are supposed to rule the day in a court of law: Did the prosecution meet its burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Rittenhouse's claim of self-defense was without merit? By any objective measure, it did not—and that is even apart from the proper criticism the Kenosha district attorneys have attracted for a performance riddled with gross ineptitude.

Kyle Rittenhouse enters the courtroom to hear
Kyle Rittenhouse enters the courtroom to hear the verdicts in his trial prior to being found not guilty on all counts at the Kenosha County Courthouse on November 19, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Sean Krajacic - Pool/Getty Images

Cases with this strong a self-defense component are routinely passed over for prosecution. As such, there is a strand of analysis that accuses the prosecution of nailing Kyle Rittenhouse not to punish an honestly perceived crime, but to placate the smoldering streets of Kenosha.

That assertion requires some mind-reading that I was hesitant to buy into until Assistant DA Thomas Binger ridiculed not just the defendant, but anyone who would carry an AR-15 in self-defense—and, for extra measure, mocked anyone who might see the ill effects of a dearth of police presence and seek to respond to a burning city crying for help. This suggested a strategy manual straight from the index cards of the Democratic Party. I don't magically know that this was a prosecution born of political vendetta, but history will certainly accommodate that suspicion.

As a heroic jury followed actual facts, refusing to be sideswiped by a sociopolitical mob demanding Rittenhouse's head on a platter, the relief of a proper verdict lifted the curtain on the depressing possibility of a nation unable to stomach such fidelity to law and facts. I did not spend the days of deliberation actively expecting riots to erupt at the first breath of acquittal, but it certainly would not have surprised me.

And why not? The riots that drew Rittenhouse's attention were ignited by misleading coverage that wailed of another racist cop killing another unarmed, innocent black man. What a circle of ironic dishonesty: Lies told about the Jacob Blake shooting led to riots and Rittenhouse's involvement, which led to threadbare charges and a trail poisoned by even more dishonest media coverage.

A proper verdict in a politically charged, high-visibility case is to be celebrated. The restraint shown by countless potential troublemakers is a nice bonus, in view of the anger that had been stoked so recklessly by so many people supposedly tasked with analyzing the trial for a mass audience. A proper acquittal and no wave of rioting? It almost seemed like too much to ask for.

The streets of America did not burn, but there were plenty of fires lit in the caustic reactions among the bitter corners of the commentary spectrum. To the surprise of no one, those who saw Rittenhouse as guilty without evidence are the same who now lament the acquittal as a miscarriage of justice. A victory for vigilantism, they say, and a thumbs-up for white supremacist justice.

It was nothing of the kind. In an era when activist whims enjoy frequent favor, it must be a jolt to see a jury fail to tap-dance to the approved tune of the moment. But the jury in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial decided correctly. And the nation did not explode in violent objection. Let's enjoy this moment of sanity, and hope for more to follow.

Mark Davis is a talk show host for the Salem Media Group on 660AM The Answer in Dallas-Ft. Worth, and a columnist for the Dallas Morning News and Townhall.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.