A state senator from Oklahoma has proposed a law named after Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse that would compensate what it calls victims of “malicious prosecution,” in honour of the 18-year-old, who was acquitted on murder charges last week after shooting three people during August 2020 Black Lives Matter protests and riots in Wisconsin.
State senator Nathan Dahm, a Republican, proposed “Kyle’s Law” on Tuesday. It would have the state compensate those charged with murder but found not guilty due to justifiable homicide, such as self-defence.
“Kyle Rittenhouse should never have been charged. The video evidence from early on showed it was lawful self-defence,” Mr Dahm told The Daily Wire. “It is our duty to protect the rights of the people we represent, and the right to self-defence is paramount. This bill will ensure that what happened to Kyle Rittenhouse cannot happen to the people of Oklahoma.”
Senate Bill 1120, as its formally known, would require individuals to show three things: that they had been prosecuted without probable cause; that they had been found not guilty; and that the prosecution caused them financial injury such as legal fees or lost wages.
Reaction to the verdict, which found Mr Rittenhouse not guilty on all charges after fatally shooting two people and injuring a third, was deeply polarised.
Liberal commentators like the writer Roxane Gay, for example, said the ruling would embolden “openly white supremacist vigilantes.” Meanwhile, many on the right, as well as those on the 18-year-old’s legal defence team, thought prosecutors had gone too far.
Midway through his trial in Kenosha, Mr Rittenhouse’s lawyers moved for a mistrial, after prosecutors sought to question him about video evidence previously deemed inadmissible, as well as the fairly commonplace choice Mr Rittenhouse made to remain silent before the trial after he was accused of homicide.
Judge Bruce Schroeder at one point shouted down the prosecutors, telling them, “Don’t get brazen with me!” and warned they were risking a “grave constitutional violation” with their practices.
The prosecutors had been seeking, among other things, to ask about video taken before the 10 August shooting that showed Mr Rittenhouse saying he would shoot shoplifters, which had been deemed inadmissible in pretrial hearings.
The prosecutors’ conduct wasn’t the only thing criticised during the trial, however. Judge Schroeder drew national intrigue and some criticisms for his eccentric courtroom practices, from singing, to making off-colour ethnic jokes, to chummily sitting next to Mr Rittenhouse and allowing him to draw the names of some of his jurors.
By way of explanation, the judge said in a rambling speech that he once allowed a court clerk to pick the names in a case two decades ago in trial with a Black defendant, resulting in a bad optic” after the clerk chose “a Black, the Black, the only Black” in the jury pool.
“There was nothing wrong with it, it was all OK, but what do they talk about – optics, nowadays … That was a bad optic, I thought,” he said.