Reason Roundup

The Prosecution Had a Very Bad Day in the Kyle Rittenhouse Trial

Plus: Biden administration defends vaccine mandate, Bari Weiss announces the University of Austin, and more...

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The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse—the 17-year-old who shot and killed two men and grievously injured a third during the riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake last summer—entered its second week on Monday. The prosecution called to the stand Gaige Grosskreutz, who was shot by Rittenhouse but survived.

This did not go as planned, as Grosskreutz was very effectively cross-examined by Rittenhouse's attorney, Corey Chirafisi. If anything, it seems likely that Grosskreutz's answer would tend to support Rittenhouse's contention that he acted in self-defense. Indeed, while the most anyone can do is speculate, there are good reasons to think the trial might culminate in an acquittal—a verdict that could cause a mass meltdown within the mainstream media and among Democratic politicians, who have already branded Rittenhouse a domestic terrorist.

Rittenhouse was 17 years old at the time of the shootings, and lived in Antioch, Illinois, a mile south of the Wisconsin border. On August 23, 2020, Kenosha police had shot Blake, a black man, during a confrontation with his girlfriend. Blake, who had a warrant out for his arrest on sexual assault charges, disobeyed police orders and instead walked over to his girlfriend's vehicle; police claimed they feared he was reaching for a weapon and opened fire. Blake survived the encounter, but was paralyzed.

Coming just a few weeks after the police killing of George Floyd,* the Blake incident generated mass protests and considerable violence in Kenosha, with protesters settings cars and buildings on fire. By the night of August 25, armed militia groups were patrolling the city in an attempt to stop the riots.

Rittenhouse ventured into Kenosha, armed with a medical kit and an AR-15 that had been acquired for him by a friend, since Rittenhouse was too young to buy it. His stated purpose was to defend small businesses that were under threat of arson and looting; he was eventually surrounded by protesters during a series of encounters. Video footage of the encounters showed Rittenhouse trying to move away from them, but after a warning shot was fired by another man, Rittenhouse turned back and engaged Joseph Rosenbaum, a protester who tried to grab his gun. Rittenhouse shot him four times, killing him.

Rittenhouse was then chased by protesters, tripped and fell, and was attacked by a man named Anthony Huber, who struck him with a skateboard. Rittenhouse shot and killed him as well. He then shot Grosskreutz, who was armed with a gun and moving toward him.

Rittenhouse was charged with reckless homicide, intentional homicide, and attempted homicide for the three shootings. His attorneys have argued that he acted in self-defense, and rationally feared for his life in each of the three instances.

Grosskreutz may have inadvertently made that argument more plausible for the jury. When cross-examined by the defense on Monday, he confirmed that Rittenhouse did not shoot him until after he had pointed his own handgun at Rittenhouse.

"It wasn't until you pointed your gun at him, advanced on him…that he fired, right?" asked Chirafisi.

"Correct," Grosskreutz replied.

Many in the media have focused the case against Rittenhouse on the fact that he foolishly chose to inject himself into a chaotic situation where trouble was assured: He didn't belong there, and thus he bears responsibility for the deaths. It's perfectly fine to scrutinize Rittenhouse's rationale, and to lay moral blame for what happened at his feet. But his self-defense claim has absolutely nothing to do with any of that—it is only about whether he reasonably believed he was in danger at the moment he fired those shots. Grosskreutz's testimony gives significant credence to Rittenhouse's contention that such a belief was valid.

It's impossible to say for certain how the trial will conclude, of course. But if Rittenhouse is acquitted, it will not necessarily be because the justice system is dead, but rather, because the prosecution failed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Rittenhouses's actions were unreasonable at the moments they occurred.


FREE MINDS

Bari Weiss' Substack announced an interesting venture on Monday: a brand new university. Pano Kanelos, formerly the president of St. John's College, will serve as the inaugural president at the University of Austin, which was born of conversations between Weiss, Niall Ferguson, Arthur Brooks, Joe Lonsdale, and other figures who have long criticized the ideological conformity and crisis of free expression on modern college campuses.

According to Kanelos:

We count among our numbers university presidents: Robert Zimmer, Larry Summers, John Nunes, and Gordon Gee, and leading academics, such as Steven Pinker, Deirdre McCloskey, Leon Kass, Jonathan Haidt,  Glenn Loury, Joshua Katz, Vickie Sullivan, Geoffrey Stone, Bill McClay, and Tyler Cowen.

We are also joined by journalists, artists, philanthropists, researchers, and public intellectuals, including Lex Fridman, Andrew Sullivan, Rob Henderson, Caitlin Flanagan, David Mamet, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sohrab Ahmari, Stacy Hock, Jonathan Rauch, and Nadine Strossen.

We are a dedicated crew that grows by the day. Our backgrounds and experiences are diverse; our political views differ. What unites us is a common dismay at the state of modern academia and a recognition that we can no longer wait for the cavalry. And so we must be the cavalry.

It will surely seem retro—perhaps even countercultural—in an era of massive open online courses and distance learning to build an actual school in an actual building with as few screens as possible. But sometimes there is wisdom in things that have endured.

Weiss wrote on Twitter that the university will "welcome witches who refuse to burn."

To learn more about who and what is involved, watch the video below:


FREE MARKETS

The Biden administration defended its vaccine mandate for private employers in court on Monday, arguing that the requirement is necessary to save lives. According to Politico:

The Biden administration told a federal court Monday that a stay of its vaccinate-or-test requirement for private employers "would likely cost dozens or even hundreds of lives per day."

Responding to a temporary stay imposed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Saturday, the administration argued that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was well within its authority to issue the requirements requiring employees at large businesses to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or tested weekly.

The states, businesses and religious groups that requested the stay aren't likely to succeed given earlier court rulings, federal law and "the considerable evidence that OSHA analyzed and discussed when issuing" the requirement, attorneys for OSHA and the Labor Department told the court.

"Nor have petitioners shown that their claimed injuries outweigh the harm of staying a Standard that will save thousands of lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations," the filing added.

The administration also argued there aren't grounds for "emergency" relief because the effects of the mandate won't be in place for another month.

The mandate—an ill-considered and likely unconstitutional expansion of federal authority—is slated to take effect on January 4.


QUICK HITS

• Any Democrats who are still in denial about the role that COVID-related school closures played in handing the Virginia gubernatorial election to the Republican challenger, Glenn Youngkin, ought to read this Twitter thread. Danny Barefoot, a Democratic strategist, conducted a focus group with female Virginians who voted for President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election and then for Youngkin last week. Their responses confirm that former Gov. Terry McAuliffe lost significant points because he rejected the right of parents to be substantially involved in their kids' education while elevating American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, the avatar of school closures.

• Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R–Ga.) recently toured the Washington, D.C., jail, and found herself drawn to the Nation of Islam due to the group's pro-ivermectin slant.

• The House committee investigating the events of January 6 has subpoenaed Michael Flynn, John Eastman, and others.

• Alec Baldwin wants police on movie sets to monitor guns.

• Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers says he didn't expect blowback for his vaccine stance.

Updated: George Floyd was killed by a police officer, Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on his neck for nine minutes until he died.