‘Clearly there is a lot of work to be done,’ says Kamala Harris

posted on 11/20/2021 00:18

Harris has a long career as an attorney general in the state of California and in politics - (credit: AFP)

Harris has a long career as an attorney general in the state of California and in politics – (credit: AFP)

“The verdict really speaks for itself,” US Vice President Kamala Harris said on Friday (11/19) after being asked about Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal. The young man shot and killed two anti-racist activists on a march in 2020, injuring a third, but was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense.

Harris, who was the first woman to preside over the United States after a brief resignation from President Joe Biden, has a long career as a California state attorney general and in politics as a Democratic senator advocating for the rights of racial minorities.

“As many of you know, I’ve spent most of my career working to make the criminal justice system fairer, and clearly there’s a lot more work to be done,” he said. Harris’ resigned disappointment at the would-be historic decision echoes much of the country’s population.

Polarization and fear

While the sentence was commemorated by the far right as a victory for armamentism and respect for the second amendment (an excerpt from the constitution on self-defence); the various organizations of black movements in the country saw this as an observation that not only the police, but the entire state apparatus in the United States carries a racist slur.

“I don’t know how they came to the final conclusion that he is innocent, but that’s why African Americans say the whole system is guilty,” he told the Washington Post, Justin Blake. He is the uncle of Jacob Blake, a man who was paralyzed after being shot seven times by a police officer and who prompted the protest Rittenhouse opposed. “This must end,” he protested.

In the same report, the newspaper spoke with residents of the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, who said they were not surprised by the ruling in favor of Kyle Rittenhouse. “The system is telling me that no one has to answer,” said Hannah Gittings, girlfriend of one of the victims.

Susan Hughes, great-aunt of one of the shot, also spoke of a possible threat as a result of the sentence. She fears Rittenhouse supporters will start to feel “encouraged” and be “more brazen in some of their actions.” At 72, Hughes was able to closely follow the polarization in the city. “I live here, I know the community is divided,” he declared.

Burden of proof and self-defense

Another point much debated by the international media, even before the sentence was published, is the legal repercussion of the case. The state of Wisconsin requires jurors to ask very specific questions about self-defense and imposes on the prosecution the task of proving that the act of violence was deliberate and not to protect one’s life from imminent risk.

Four days before the jury’s verdict, the British newspaper Daily Mail it already showed that, on that point, the prosecution had little chance of success. “Binger was doomed to failure,” a Kenosha legal source told the dailymail.com. For the sources of mail, even with the testimony and videos of the incident, the prosecution could hardly get a conviction.

The website NPR he also heard experts who agreed with this information, particularly as the prosecution held fast to the video evidence. “You might think the more you look at the evidence, the better you’ll understand what happened. But our research has found that to be untrue,” said Emily Balcetis.

Associate professor of psychology at New York University, Balcetis studies biases in how people look at evidence. “Our eyes can only focus and process the details of a very small part of what we’re actually looking at,” he argues.

Partiality and disbelief

Returning to the conduct of Justice itself, columnist Charles M. Blow, from The New York Times, recalled other famous cases of trials of white men accused of various crimes, “from murder to insurrection.” “There is a virtual parade of privileges as the country waits to see if our justice system will deal with these men as severely and without fuss as it has dealt with others who were not white men,” he wrote.

For Blow, the judge in the Rittenhouse case acted more like a defender for the accused than a magistrate. “When the jury was selected, for example, the judge denied requests to send questionnaires to the panel of judges. He then closed the jury selection in a single day, even though what appears to be only one person of color was selected. And he decreed that the dead men could not be called ‘victims’ in his courtroom, but could potentially be called ‘troublemakers’ or ‘looters,’” he said.

So many disagreements show that, although the criminal proceedings have ended for Kyle Rittenhouse, who will be able to respond only in the civil sphere from now on, the shootings against the three protesters and the entire development of the case are far from being finalized in the US.