Rittenhouse almost collapses out of the picture
New York — With the last five “not guilty” verdicts read aloud on Friday, Kyle Rittenhouse quaked in tears and collapsed, almost out of sight of his television camera installed in a Wisconsin courtroom.
It was the defining image of the 18-year-old’s murder trial, which became the subject of an emotional debate about guns and justice, as major radio and television networks dedicated regular programming to revealing the jury’s decision.
There was no shortage of strong opinions in the wake of the ruling.
“I knew this was a big case,” Rittenhouse’s attorney, Mark Richards, said after the trial during a news conference broadcast live by cable networks. “I never knew it would be this big.”
Rittenhouse shot three people, including two he killed, during protests against racial injustice in Kenosha, making him either a vigilante out to make trouble or a young man who defended himself against a mob, depending on the observer’s point of view.
After the ruling, some commentators have sought to separate this discussion from the mechanics of the trial.
“You were seeing this happening in America online in a very different way than in court, when you were watching all the details,” said Sarah Seidner, a CNN reporter.
On Court TV, Kirk Nurmi offered the view you’d expect from a network dominated by lawyers, saying that a jury verdict “should be sacrosanct, no matter what a court of opinion believes.”
Fox News commentators Andy McCarthy and Jonathan Turley have criticized how opinion has overshadowed the news in coverage of the Rittenhouse case. McCarthy, a lawyer, said people are losing faith in the idea that they have news coverage they can rely on.
Turley noticed how his job had changed.
“Until recently, legal analysis was not part of the advocacy journalism model,” he said. “Whatever happened with the suspension, it was a separate thing. That changed in this case.”
Fox News anchor John Roberts presented Turley’s analysis by saying that several people in the country had “convicted Kyle Rittenhouse before he approached the courtroom.”
Roberts read tweets, some nearly a year old, that were critical of Rittenhouse. “What does that say about the rush to judgment by politicians in large part and by what was supposed to be a respectable media going into this thing?” McCarthy asked.
Some of McCarthy’s expression was evident in the choices made by the networks that covered the fallout. Fox brought David Hancock, who is described as a friend of the Rittenhouse family, to praise the ruling and said Kyle “survived the hell of a storm last year, the hell of a storm.”
At about the same time, MSNBC was reading a statement issued by the family of one of the men Rittenhouse murdered.
Not everyone will feel it was just that,” CNN’s Siddner said. “There are two people who died.”
On NBC News, commentator Eugene Robinson said that in a country where guns outnumber people, “My concern is that the result will be seen as proof of vigilance, so much so that it legitimizes this way of thinking.”
News networks have followed the trial sporadically over the past few weeks, the closest being when Rittenhouse took a stand in his own defense. For outlets dominated by legal news, it has attracted strong interest: Court TV viewership during the first two weeks of the trial is 42% higher than the networks average in the previous four weeks. The Law and Crime Network said it had more YouTube viewers for the Rittenhouse case than it did when Derek Chauvin was prosecuted for the murder of George Floyd.
Amid the televised shock, attorney Richards popped up to express his relief for the upcoming weekend. He said he is looking forward to attending Wisconsin’s Big Ten football game against Nebraska on Saturday.
“Can I go home?” he said as reporters exhausted their questions.
Find AP’s full coverage of the Kyle Rittenhouse experience at: https://apnews.com/hub/kyle-rittenhouse
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