Rittenhouse Acquitted On All Counts; Jury System Works and Verdict Must Be Respected; A Red Flag Of Caution On “Rebuttable Presumption” To Hold Accused Pending Trial

On August 23, 2020, Jacob S. Blake, a 29-year-old black man, was shot and seriously injured by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Blake was shot in the back 4 times and the side 3 times when Blake opened the driver’s door to his girlfriend’s rented car and began to turn towards a police officer. Blake was carrying a knife and police officer said he believed he was about to be stabbed. The police shooting of Blake was followed by unrest, which included rallies, marches, property damage, arson, and clashes with police.

On August 25 , 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse, then 17 years old, from north suburban Antioch, volunteered to patrol downtown Kenosha amid the turmoil surrounding the shooting of Jacob Blake. Antiock, where Rittenhous lives, is 15.82 miles and a 30-minute drive to Kenosha. Wisconsin where he was driven by his mother. Armed with an AR-15-style rifle, Rittenhouse stationed himself in front of an empty and abandoned building to protect it from vandalism. Rittenhouse professed to be a medic and he had strapped to his waste a medical pack.

Eventually, Rittenhouse was attracted to and ventured into the unfolding protests in the streets caring his AR-15-style rifle. Dominick Black, a friend of Rittenhouse, testified he bought the AR-15 style rifle for Rittenhouse. Black has been charged and faces his own trial for buying the weapon for the then underage Rittenhouse.


On November 20, 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse was released from jail after his attorneys posted $2 million bail, setting the teenager free as he awaited trial for fatally shooting two men and wounding a third during the summer protests in Kenosha. The 17-year-old’s release was funded by donations sought by his attorneys, who appealed to the political right and gun rights advocates.


According to the charges filed and news accounts, Kyle Rittenhouse shot 3 people. All 3 of the shootings were captured on video that was played to the jury. The three shot and the circumstance were:


Rosenbaum was the first person fatally shot by Rittenhouse. He claimed Rosenbaum chased him and grabbed his firearm before Rittenhouse shot him 4 times in the chest even though Rosenbaum never physically touched Rittenhouse. Rosenbaum was reportedly homeless, struggled with bipolar disorder and just that day had been released from a hospital after attempting suicide. Report said he spent years in prison for sexual contact with a minor.


Huber was shot in the chest by Rittenhouse. Born in Kenosha, he died four days after his birthday according to his published obituary. Rittenhouse claims Huber had kicked him in the face and struck him in the head with a skateboard. Rittenhouse testified he shot Huber as he tried to reach for his weapon. Rittenhouse testified that prior to shooting Huber, he tripped and fell to the ground. Video shows him sitting down on the street, at which point Huber tried to take his gun before Rittenhouse shot and killed him.


Gaige Grosskreutz, 27, was the sole survivor of the shootings. Moments after Huber was killed, Rittenhouse shot Grosskreutz in the arm. Grosskreutz says he lost 90% of his bicep with graphic bloody photos of the injury shown to the jury. At trial, he admitted that he thought he was going to die. Rittenhouse said he reacted to seeing Grosskreutz handgun, which Grosskreutz explained to the court that he pulled out because he thought Rittenhouse was an active shooter.



There were 5 charges filed against Kyle Rittenhouse and they were:

Count 1: First-degree reckless homicide, use of a dangerous weapon
Count 2: First-degree recklessly endangering safety, use of a dangerous weapon
Count 3: First-degree intentional homicide, use of a dangerous weapon
Count 4: Attempted first-degree intentional homicide, use of a dangerous weapon
Count 5: First-degree recklessly endangering safety, use of a dangerous weapon

If convicted, Rittenhouse was facing a sentence of life in prison if found guilty on first-degree intentional homicide and the other charges each carried over 60 years behind bars.

A sixth count, possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18, was dismissed by the judge before closing arguments.



The actions and rulings of trial Judge Bruce Schroeder were called into question. Judge Schroeder is the longest serving Judge in the State of Wisconsin know to preside over his courtroom with a heavy hand.. Under the Code of Judicial Conduct, Judges are required to be “fair and impartial.”.

Presiding trial Judge Bruce Schroeder made rulings and did any number of things that could easily make a person believe that he had a bias against the prosecution and favored the Defendant including:

1. Judge Bruce Schroeder did not allow prosecutors to refer to those killed as “victims” of the shooting but said they could be referred to as “rioters”.

2. The Judge did not allow the prosecutors to present evidence that Rittenhouse made public appearance in January with members of the Proud Boys group, which is a right-wing militia group that embraces political violence, ruling it was not relevant to the case. Judge Schroeder said he hadn’t heard of the Proud Boys prior to the Rittenhouse case, even though they were brought up during the 2020 Presidential Trump-Biden debate and have been found actively involved with the January 6 US capital takeover with many Proud Boy members charged and still in custody. Months after the shootings, Rittenhouse was seen in a bar with members of the Proud Boys. He wore a shirt that read “Free as Fuck.”

3. Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger told the court “(Rittenhouse’s) actions of coming into our community illegally after curfew with a gun at the time of a protest is entirely consistent with what the Proud Boys make it their job to do.” The Judge said the evidence was not relevant.

4. Judge Bruce Schroeder did not allow prosecutors to present evidence that Rittenhouse said two weeks before the shootings that he wished he had his gun so he could shoot criminals. Judge Schroeder ruled the circumstance of those statements by Rittenhouse “so dissimilar” to the crimes he is accused of and ruled he would not allow that evidence in the trial.

5. A total of 18 jurors were selected by the attorneys, 12 to act as the final jury and 6 selected as alternate jurors to serve to replace a seated juror should something happened. Once 18 were selected, the court allowed Rittenhouse to select the 6 alternatives by lottery where all 18 names were place in a container and the Defendant drew 6 names who served as alternates.

6. When Judge Schroeder gave jury instructions, he stopped in the middle of giving the jury instruction on “self-defense”, said it was confusing and questioned if it was in fact an accurate statement of the law. Jury instructions are standard instructions of the law already approved and required to be used by the courts.



Prosecutors portrayed Rittenhouse as a “wannabe soldier” who had gone looking for trouble that night. They argued Rittenhouse was the one responsible for creating a dangerous situation in the first place by taking a weapon to the protests and pointing his rifle at demonstrators.

In a dramatic move usually never recommended by defense lawyers to clients charged with murder, Rittenhouse took the stand and waived his constitutional right to remain silent in order to give his side of the events of that evening. Rittenhouse testified that he went Kenosha to provide protection for local businesses, provide first aid and admitted that he falsely claimed to be a certified emergency medical technician (EMT) on the night of the shooting. Rittenhouse testified: “I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself.”

Rittenhouse testified he went to the scene of the unrest to defend other people’s property. He testified he was fearful for his life and acted in self-defense when all 3 men individually and separately assaulted him in 3 separate incidents as he was being chased by them.

Breaking down at one point exhibiting great emotion but with no tears, Rittenhouse told the jury he opened fire after Rosenbaum chased him and tried to grab his gun and saying he was afraid his firearm was going to be taken away from him and used to kill him. Huber was killed after hitting Rittenhouse in the head and neck with a skateboard.

Grosskreutz was shot after approaching Rittenhouse with a pistol in his hand. Grosskreutz said despite being armed himself, he had his hands raised as he closed in on Rittenhouse and testified he did not intend to shoot Rittenhouse. Prosecutor Thomas Binger asked Grosskreutz why he didn’t shoot first and he responded:

“That’s not the kind of person that I am. That’s not why I was out there. … It’s not who I am. And definitely not somebody I would want to become.”

During cross-examination, Rittenhouse defense attorney Corey Chirafisi asked Grosskreutz:

“It wasn’t until you pointed your gun at him, advanced on him … that he fired, right?”

Grosskreutz replied: “Correct.”

The defense presented a photo showing Grosskreutz pointing the gun at Rittenhouse, who was on the ground with his rifle pointed up at Grosskreutz. Under follow-up questioning from the prosecutor, he said he did not intend to point his weapon at Rittenhouse.

With respect to Joseph Rosenbaum, he was described by witnesses as “hyperaggressive” and the witnesses said that he dared others to shoot him and threatened to kill Rittenhouse earlier that night. Other witnesses said he acted “belligerently” but did not appear to pose a serious threat.

A videographer testified Rosenbaum lunged for the rifle just before he was shot, and a pathologist said his injuries appeared to indicate his hand was over the barrel. Also, Rosenbaum’s fiancée disclosed that he was on medication for bipolar disorder and depression. Rittenhouse’s lawyers labelled Rosenbaum a “crazy person.”


Prosecutors played a drone video showing the shooting Joseph Rosenbaum at close range after Rosenbaum had followed Rittenhouse in a parking lot where he ventured between parked cars . The footage depicted the clearest image of the shooting.

A few of the prosecutors witnesses were more helpful to the defense than the prosecution. Martin Howard, a Kenosha police detective, testified that Rittenhouse shouted “Friendly! Friendly! Friendly!” as he was being chased by Rosenbaum, and agreed with the defense’s characterization that their confrontation appeared to look like “the classic ambush.”

Each of the 3 shooting was captured on video either by bystanders or by FBI infrared video from a surveillance plane from almost 9,000 feet above the spot where Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum.

Videos played during the trial show Rittenhouse fleeing after shooting Rosenbaum and a crowd of people pursuing him, some yelling, Beat him up,” “Hey, he shot him,” and “Get him! Get that dude!”



In order for a person to be found guilty or acquitted on criminal charges, a jury must reach a unanimous verdict. If just one or more jurors cannot agree with a verdict, a mistrial is declared and a new trial is required unless the prosecution decides to no retry the case.

On Friday, November 19, Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty on virtually all counts including first-degree intentional homicide and the four other felony charges. Rittenhouse could have been sentence to life in prison if found guilty on first-degree intentional homicide and the two other charges each carried over 60 years behind bars.


After the verdict, President Joe Biden was asked for his opinion on the verdict and he had this to say:

““I stand by what the jury has concluded. The jury system works, and we have to abide by it. … While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken. … I urge everyone to express their views peacefully, consistent with the rule of law. Violence and destruction of property have no place in our democracy.”



On June 15, 2021, a man was shot during a protest in Old Town over the “La Jornada” (The Journey) sculpture in front of the Albuquerque Museum. The shooting occurred during a protest for the removal of the figures of Juan de Onate de Salazar in the sculpture.

During the protest, there were 5 to 6 heavily armed New Mexico Civil Guard members, some dressed in military camouflage, present trying to “protect” the sculpture. It was reported that the shooting occurred when at least 3 of the protesters attacked a person identified as Steven Baca who was walking away from them.

Steven Baca was struck in the head with a skateboard and Baca drew a gun, shot numerous times, with one shot hitting one of the protesters. The shot protester was rushed to the hospital and was listed in critical but stable condition. Baca was surrounded by the New Mexico Civil Guard at the protest.


On November 19, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez was asked by KOB Channel 4 news to share his thoughts about the Kyle Rittenhouse acquittal verdict. Torrez had this to say:

“Although I am disappointed in the outcome of this trial, we respect the jury’s verdict and I would echo the calls we have heard around the country for those who are disappointed that they express themselves peacefully. … One of the things that is concerning to me is that individual who will look at this and think this kind of self-appointed vigilante activity is somehow acceptable. … It isn’t, and it’s something that we have to be mindful of.”

DA Torrez comments are important to note given that armed militia groups have clashed with protesters in Albuquerque. Torrez has filed a civil case against the citizens militia involved with the protest. In the summer of 2021, one protester was shot in Old Town during the Onate statue protest. The suspected shooter, Steven Baca, was surrounded by the New Mexico Civil Guard at the protest.

Steven Baca has been charged for his shooting of a protester and is awaiting trial which is anticipated to occur early next year. When Torrez was asked if he is worried the Rittenhouse case will impact the jury for the Baca case, Torrez had this to say:

“There are certain similarities and would imagine some of the lame legal arguments will be made, certainly by the defense – but there are certain factual differences that will probably lead to different rulings by the court and different evidence presented to the jury.”


On Monday, July 14, 2020, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez filed a civil lawsuit to stop the New Mexico Civil Guard private militia from usurping the state’s military and law enforcement authority. The lawsuit was filed against the New Mexico Civil Guard and 14 of its members who “include some individuals associated with white supremacist and neo-Confederate organizations,” according to the civil complaint. The case is still pending.


As disappointing the Rittenhouse acquittal was to many, it must be respected. Any one that believes that the verdict validates the Second Amend Right to bear arms is a damn fool and ignorant of our criminal justice system. The verdict could have very easily gone the other way with a different judge, a different jury not to mention in a federal courtroom as opposed to a state courthouse.

What the verdict does represent is that our criminal justice system is based on “due process of law”, the “presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” and that it is a jury of 12 that are the fact finders empowered to make the final decision on what happened based on the evidence presented to them. In the Rittenhouse case, the jury system worked.

The Rittenhouse acquittal also represents that “self-defense” can be claimed negating a guilty verdict even though the one who asserts it voluntarily thrust themselves into an event. It is well settled law that a person cannot claim self-defense if that person instigated an attack. In other words, Prosecutors must prove intent to provoke in order to negate a “self-defense” claim. Criminal prosecutors know full well that proving state of mind, or criminal intent, to get a conviction in a courtroom setting is the single biggest obstacle to overcome. In the Rittenhouse trial, the prosecution failed to prove their case and the defense did their job.

In the Rittenhouse acquittal, the jury decided to believe the defendant and decided that Rittenhouse felt endangered to the point that he felt he needed to use deadly force to protect himself from harm. The evidence that Rittenhouse was hit in the head or neck with a skateboard by one of the victims he killed and that another was armed with a handgun was more likely than not what created reasonable doubt in the jurors’ minds and that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. What also did not help the prosecutions case was when a Detective the prosecution called to the stand agreed with the defense that it was “the classic ambush.” with what happened to Rittenhouse by one of those he killed. The fact so much of all 3 of the shootings were captured on video also likely helped create reasonable doubt and did more to show Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense and was not the aggressor allowing his claim of self-defense to be believed by the jury.


Throughout history many a guilty person has been acquitted for crimes they committed. If jurors have no doubt as to the defendant’s guilt, or if their only doubts are unreasonable doubts, then the prosecutor has proven the defendant’s “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” and the defendant should be pronounced guilty. Jurors all too often do not do not believe the evidence presents or prefer to ignore the evidence presented which is their right. Jury’s are empowered to decide the credibility of a witnesses testimony and empowered to set aside the evidence and if they want. Once acquitted of the crimes charged, the prosecution cannot file the charges again and there is no right of appeal. Criminal prosecutors only get one bite at the apple so to speak.

Some of the more infamous acquittals in recent memory have included many celebrities, mothers, singers and athletes. OJ Simpson was accused of murdering his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman and was acquitted by a jury. Casey Anthony killed her two-year-old and was acquitted. R&B singer R. Kelly was charged with having sex with a minor and producing child pornography and was acquitted by a jury. Actor Robert Blake who was charged with conspiracy to murder his wife and was acquitted. George Zimmerman fatally shot 17-year-old high school student Trayvon Martin on the night of February 26, 2012 and on July 13, 2013, a jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder and of manslaughter charges. In 2003 singer Michael Jackson was arrested on charges of molesting a 13 boy and the jury found the singer not guilty of all charges with many more victims coming forward over the years. None of those listed admitted to doing the crime and demanded a jury trial. OJ Simpson said he was going to find the murderer of his wife after he was acquitted.


It was totally appropriate that District Attorney Raul Torrez as a prosecutor to say he was disappointed in the outcome of the Rittenhouse trial. That is and was his duty and responsibility. What was far more critical is that Torrez actually said he respected the jury’s verdict telling those who disagree with the verdict to express themselves peacefully. Torrez’s comments were a welcome relief from the political rhetoric that he is known for when he has repeatedly said that the “criminal justice system is broken” which is nothing more than political rhetoric that has gone a long way to get him elected not once but twice. He is now using it again as he runs for Attorney General, but this time in the context of the bail bond system.


District Attorney Raul Torrez is considered to be the biggest proponent of bail bond reform and advocates legislation that would create a “rebuttable presumption against release” in certain cases such as first- and second-degree murder cases, voluntary manslaughter, criminal sexual penetration, certain crimes against children, first-degree sexual assault, human trafficking, first-degree robbery, crimes involving a firearm and defendants who are on supervision or parole for another felony. Rebuttable presumption of being violent would mandate a charged defendant to be held in jail until trial, which could take years, and the defendant is released when evidence reveals that the defendant did not commit the crime. It has happened in in New Mexico in high profile violent crime cases and it will happen again with rebuttable presumption of being violent.

The most recent high profile case that comes to mind is the killing of 10-year old Victoria Martens where the child was brutally raped, murdered, dismembered and her body burned in the bathtub. The victim’s mother, 35-year-old Michelle Martens, her boyfriend, 31-year-old Fabian Gonzales; and Gonzales’ cousin, 31-year-old Jessica Kelley, were arrested at the scene and charged with first-degree murder, child abuse resulting in grievous bodily harm or death, kidnapping, tampering with evidence, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. All three suspects pled not guilty and sat in jail pending trial. After two years, Michelle Martens pled guilty to one count of child abuse resulting in death. District Attorney Raul Torrez announced dismissal of charges against two of the 3 suspects after evidence, including DNA, revealed that two of the suspects did not kill the child, they were not even present at the time and the real murderer is still to be found.

Under the rebuttable presumption doctrine, in the most violent and serious cases an accused defendant would be required to show they do not pose a threat to public and should be released pending their trial. Such a shift of burden of proof could conceivably require a defendant to take the stand during a detention hearing before their trial and waive their 5th Amendment Constitutional Right against self-incrimination.

The biggest problem with “rebuttable presumption” being advocated by DA Torrez and others is that it undermines and is an affront to the most basic constitutional right guaranteed by the United States constitution of the “presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt”.

In our criminal justice system, both in state and federal court, it is the prosecution that has the burden of proof to present evidence to convict a person. The rebuttable presumption shifts the burden of proving dangerousness from the prosecution and require defendants accused of certain crimes to show and convince a judge that they should be released on bond or conditions of release pending their trial on the charges.

The Kyle Rittenhouse acquittal underscores the serious defect in the “rebuttable presumption against release” being advocated by Torres. It underscores that “rebuttable presumption against release” undermines and is an affront to the most basic constitutional rights guaranteed by the United States constitution of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” and “due process of law”. With “rebuttable presumption against release”, Rittenhouse would have sat in jail until his trial. He did not because Rittenhouse was released from jail after his attorneys posted a $2 million cash bail funded by donations from guns rights advocates. With rebuttable presumption, Rittenhouse would not have been allowed to post bond.


There are a number of similarities with the District Attorneys prosecution of Steven Baca who Torrez has charged for shooting a protester at the June Onate statue protests, including Baca taking a weapon to a protest, being assaulted with a skate board, and a citizen militia going to a protest to protect property and a defendant proclaiming “self-defense” for shooting someone. Torrez himself said:

“There are certain similarities and would imagine some of the lame legal arguments will be made, certainly by the defense – but there are certain factual differences that will probably lead to different rulings by the court and different evidence presented to the jury.”

Torrez enjoys the “court of public opinion” when he spouts off to the press and business organizations, but a jury trial courtroom setting requires actual proof. Under no circumstances can “self-defense” be considered arguing a “lame legal defense”, and after so many years’ experience as a prosecutor, Torrez should know that, but ostensibly he knows very little about the defense. DA Raul Torrez should also know never, ever be so confident as to how a judge will rule and never underestimate a jury nor predict what it will do once it begins and completes deliberations. It’s unknown if DA Torrez will be the lead prosecutor in the Baca trial. If Baca is acquitted because of self defense, Torrez will be forced to eat his own words perhaps with a helping portion of humility if he is required to say “I am disappointed in the outcome of this trial, but I respect the jury’s verdict.”


The criminal justice system in this country has never been perfect, nor will it ever be, but it is not broken. The criminal justice system does have its flaws and a number of inequities, but to say that it is a broken system is just plain ignorance or political opportunism at its worst. The criminal justice is only as good as the stakeholders who are responsible to make it work and succeed. The Rittenhouse case showed the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the defense did its job by asserting and proving self-defense and the jury did its job as the fact finder.

Ultimately, the Kyle Rittenhouse case shows that the jury system works the way it is supposed to work and the verdict must be respected.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.