The Rittenhouse verdict was shocking, but we must consider several things that came into play. As sometimes happens in cases like this, the victims were put on trial. That was clearly the case with Joseph Rosenbaum, one of Rittenhouse’s victims. Rittenhouse claimed Rosenbaum was the aggressor, and that was supported by a videographer who testified that Rosenbaum was “chasing” Rittenhouse and “lunging” for his gun. The prosecution erred when they called Rosenbaum’s fiancé, Kariann Swart, to testify and asked her about Rosenbaum’s medications, which the defense revealed through questioning to be for bipolar disorder. This supported the defense claims that Rosenbaum was the aggressor. Another victim, Gaige Grosskreutz, admitted during testimony that he was armed and pointed his pistol at Rittenhouse, though he further testified that was not his intent. The Guardian published a breakdown of the testimony and other errors made by the prosecution, which ultimately led to Rittenhouse’s acquittal.
All the issues in the Rittenhouse trial bring us to another trial that recently concluded, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Many believe that considering the Rittenhouse verdict, Arbery will not receive justice, but these were two very differently conducted trials. Even though the defense in this case was able to keep all but one black off the jury, Judge Timothy Wamsley kept complete control of his courtroom and followed the letter of the law in his rulings on both sides of the aisle. AP reported that he admonished the prosecutor for an inappropriate question, just as he admonished the defense for the ridiculous request to keep Black pastors out of the courtroom. His biggest ruling came immediately prior to closing arguments, when he ruled that the “citizens arrest law” is “only applicable if a person sees a felony committed and immediately acts.” The defendants in this case did not do that. They merely suspected that Arbery was a burglar; they never witnessed him committing the act.
Further, in Georgia, people are not allowed to detain others and certainly, deadly force cannot be used unless it is used in protecting self. In other words, if someone pulls a gun on you, you have the right to shoot them first. Again, that did not happen in the Arbery case. Arbery was an unarmed jogger who posed no threat to Travis and Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan. These men merely decided that we were back in the times when white men could kill a black man for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Blacks in Brunswick fervently pray that justice will be realized in the Arbery murder trial. Indeed, Blacks have prayed for years for the justice system to work for us as it works for whites. The justice system should not be about color but about facts and evidence, with an outcome based on those issues alone. We can try to be positive and ignore the fact that Blacks were purposely kept off the jury deciding the fate of the three men involved in Arbery’s death and await the jury’s verdict. We hope to celebrate that, finally, we are treated like everyone else, both in and out of a court of law.
Shirley is a former entertainment writer and has worked in the legal field for over 25 years