|"The Law is a Ass"||
22 November 2021
Cogito Ergo Non Serviam
Kyle Rittenhouse is a resident of Illinois, but last summer, he went to Kenosha, Wisconsin, to participate in a riot. He carried an AR-15 which he was too young to purchase (he was 17) and managed to shoot three people, killing two of them. Friday, a jury found him not guilty on all counts, charges that could have put him in jail for decades. Today, he is a free man because the laws regarding guns and self-defense are ridiculous.
In Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens has Mr. Brownlow say to Mr. Bumble, “the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction." In reply, “If the law supposes that," said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, "the law is a ass -- a idiot'." In the Rittenhouse instance, the law most assuredly is both an ass and an idiot.
In general, the law in the US (and it varies by state to be sure) says that if one believes one's life is threatened, one may use lethal force in defending that life. The facts in the Rittenhouse case are clear enough. It appears that the law allowed him to go looking for trouble, and when he found it, he was legally entitled to shoot. The law is unjust and must change.
The law that allowed Mr. Rittenhouse to possess an AR-15 at the age of 17 is suspect. While one is prepared to allow a 17-year-old member of the United States Marines carry whatever the Corps says he will carry, Mr. Rittenhouse is not a Marine. He lacks the training to carry a weapon of that power, and he clearly lacks the judgment to use it wisely. Mr. Rittenhouse shouldn't have been there armed as he was, and perhaps not armed at all.
At trial, Mr. Rittenhouse broke down on the stand as he recounted what happened that night. He told the jury that he felt threatened by the people he shot, and he said that he had no choice but to fire. The law, by leaving the entire situation up to Mr. Rittenhouse's discretion, creates an ex post facto justification for the shooting that cannot be challenged. The situation did not appear to be one where he needed to shoot. A reasonable observer may well think he over-reacted. But a reasonable observer is not the standard. The standard is whether the killer says afterward that he felt threatened -- whether he did or not. The killer will always claim that.
The law gives a man like Mr. Rittenhouse the ability to arm himself as if for combat, travel to a different town in a different state, and to shoot people dead while claiming he was afraid of them. It is legal, but it is not right. Therefore, as a matter of justice, the law fails.
That is not to say that the trial itself was flawless. Judge Bruce Schroeder put his thumb on the scales of justice from the beginning. He forbade the prosecution from calling the dead men "victims" as he says that is a loaded word, though not as loaded as Mr. Rittenhouse's AR-15. The judge screamed at the prosecution for certain questions it asked. During the final statement from the prosecution, he was making a cup of coffee at the little desk behind the bench, distracting the jury. Worst of all, he dismissed two charges before the jury ever got the case, charges he had already approved earlier in the proceedings. Mr. Rittenhouse was not exonerated by the jury for illegal arms possession nor for violating curfew. The judge let him go.
Judge Schroeder has been on the bench since 1983, and he was elected to his first full term of six years in 1984. Whether judges should be elected or appointed is an argument for another time, but anyone spending 36 years on the bench should be mindful of Oliver Cromwell's words to the Rump Parliament, "You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately . . . In the name of God, go!" Judges ought not to sit for decades. Term limits for elected judges would help.
© Copyright 2021 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.