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Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know
By: Lisa M. Hayes
To understand the gravity of the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, you must first understand the laws that shield law enforcement from prosecution in use of deadly force crimes. Bad cops get away with murder in exactly the same way Kyle Rittenhouse did – and this is a very, very big deal.
I have walked in protests and even peaceful marches that turned dangerous in seconds. Once, my family walked in an entirely peaceful march to honor two boys who the police had shot. A local church sponsored it. A vehicle intentionally rushed into the walking crowd and nearly hit my son. He was nine at the time. I have personally seen cars or trucks surge at protestors or into protest crowds at least a dozen times.
I have been in protests where semi-automatic machine gun-armed “patriots” roamed the crowd, menacing people at will without a second glance from cops on the scene. On more than one occasion, I have been in protests where militia folks with earpieces, uniforms, and open carry sidearms flanked the crowd and would occasionally lunge into the crowd as close as possible to take photos of protestors’ faces. White supremacist groups kept a database of faces, and that is both awkward and incredibly unsettling.
My point here is, a march, rally, or protest can turn into a frightening and life-threatening riot/warzone very quickly. Most people who take the streets know that and understand the risks. However, as the right makes it a sport to infiltrate and counter-protest at events held by the left like BLM marches, these scenes have grown wildly unpredictable and unmanaged at times. Unfortunately, the element of fear in those environments is a part of the experience.
And fear is the word that matters most.
States legislate laws that govern police accountability. In every state, the laws shield police officers from prosecution in deadly force crimes with loopholes in the statutes referred to as “state of mind” clauses.
When an officer injures or kills someone in a deadly force incident that would otherwise not be justified, if that officer can testify, they were afraid of the person they injured or killed, the officer will not be held accountable.
In theory, officers get this extra bit of legal latitude because they have to make split-second decisions for the greater good. We are told we cannot possibly understand the circumstances these officers have to navigate and how quickly things evolve and devolve.
Here is the golden get-out-of-jail-free card for law enforcement. Fear is a state of mind. You cannot disprove what someone claims their state of mind was.
Law enforcement is almost never prosecuted for unlawful shoots or other deadly force crimes. These cases are unwinnable because the state of mind state statutes protect them. All they have to do is say they were afraid, and it is a near-perfect defense.
This state of mind defense is used successfully almost exclusively for law enforcement because of the nature of their work. In the last few days, we have heard a lot of rumbling about women who killed their abusers or rapists who are reading the Rittenhouse verdict from prison. The state of mind defense doesn’t tend to prevent prison for most people who kill – regardless of circumstance.
In fact, for most people, a state of mind defense often works against a defendant. In itself, to a certain degree, it is an admission of guilt. Additionally, with a civilian defendant, state of mind defenses are universally torn apart to the point they often become a tool for the prosecution. Normal people do not just get a pass on state of mind the way law enforcement does.
The Trayvon Martin case was a terrifying preview of how a civilian racist could levy the state of mind defense and win. When George Zimmerman walked for the brutal murder of a teen he claimed to be afraid of, we all took a collective deep breath because its injustice wreaked and we knew it. It laid the very public groundwork for the state of mind defense when a white person kills a black person for no reason other than they were “afraid”.
Kyle Rittenhouse is a whole different story. Kyle Rittenhouse inserted himself, and this is a key point. He didn’t stumble on the perceived danger the way Zimmerman claimed he did. Rittenhouse intentionally created a dangerous situation. His very presence with an open carry assault rifle at that rally was the danger, and he knew that.
Rittenhouse went to a Black Lives Matter protest with a weapon and a white supremacist agenda. Kyle Rittenhouse chose to be a vigilante, armed with a gun he got illegally. He CREATED a situation in which he claimed to be afraid. He killed white people at a BLM event, and was acquitted on all counts.
Before deliberations, the jury was instructed to put themselves in the mindset of Kyle Rittenhouse as they considered their verdict. They were told that state of mind was the primary element in the shootings there was no question he committed.
That court set a precedent that the state of mind defense extends to an armed vigilante who manufactures a situation where foreseeable fear was probably inevitable. He claimed self-defense against a danger he created. Kyle Rittenhouse was the cause of the threat he claimed created the fear that justified shooting three and killing two people.
The court, led by a judge who was clearly sympathetic to Rittenhouse, handed the holy grail state of mind defense to white extremists whose sole purpose would be to impede free speech using deadly force.
The right is celebrating a victory, the proportions of which many of them cannot fully understand. Joe Bob, down at the local confederate bar, thinks it is about their murdering poster-child patriot getting off without even a slap on the wrist. Kyle Rittenhouse is a hero wrapped in far right-wing republican red.
Reality check: this case delivered the right to kill for white extremists who place themselves in scary situations.
Right-wing lunatics with automatic weapons at protests are nothing new. What is new is all the reasons they have to be emboldened to use those weapons after manufacturing reasons to be afraid in environments where their very presence creates a threat for others.
Now, suppose you decide to go to a protest to exercise your right to dissent and free speech. You currently have to accept the harsh and devastating reality that white extremists have been granted an impenetrable defense previously only reserved for their brothers in blue in law enforcement – the state of mind defense.
It is chilling.
It changes everything.
Any comments that suggest Kyle Rittenhouse is not a white extremist will be deleted. We aren’t doing that nonsense.
Not today. Not ever.