KENOSHA, Wis. — Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges Friday after pleading self-defense in the deadly Kenosha shootings that became a flashpoint in the debate over guns, vigilantism and racial injustice in the U.S.
Rittenhouse, 18, began to choke up, fell forward toward the defense table and then hugged one of his attorneys as he heard a court clerk recite “not guilty” five times. A sheriff’s deputy immediately whisked him out a back door.
“He wants to get on with his life,” defense attorney Mark Richards said. “He has a huge sense of relief for what the jury did to him today. He wishes none of this ever happened. But as he said when he testified, he did not start this.”
The verdict in the politically combustible case was met with anger and disappointment from those who saw Rittenhouse as a vigilante and a wannabe cop, and relief and vindication from those who regarded him as a patriot who took a stand against lawlessness and exercised his Second Amendment right to carry a gun and to defend himself.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, the longtime civil rights leader, said the verdict throws into doubt the safety of people who protest in support of Black Americans.
“It seems to me that it’s open season on human rights demonstrators,” he said.
Rittenhouse was charged with homicide, attempted homicide and reckless endangering for killing two men and wounding a third with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle in the summer of 2020 during a tumultuous night of protests over the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white Kenosha police officer.
Rittenhouse, a then-17-year-old former police youth cadet, said he went to Kenosha to protect property from rioters. He is white, as were those he shot.
The anonymous jury, whose racial makeup was not disclosed by the court but appeared to be overwhelmingly white, deliberated for close to 3 1/2 days.
President Joe Biden called for calm, saying that while the outcome of the case “will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included, we must acknowledge that the jury has spoken.”
Rittenhouse could have gotten life in prison if found guilty on the most serious charge, first-degree intentional homicide, or what some other states call first-degree murder. Two other charges each carried over 60 years behind bars.
Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said his office respects the jury’s decision, and he asked the public to “accept the verdicts peacefully and not resort to violence.”
Ahead of the verdict, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers announced that 500 National Guard members stood ready in case of trouble. But hours after the jury came back, there were no signs of any major protests or unrest in Kenosha.
As he released the jurors, Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder assured them the court would take “every measure” to keep them safe.
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is Black and a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, denounced the outcome. He, like many civil rights activists, saw a racial double standard at work in the case.
“Over the last few weeks, many dreaded the outcome we just witnessed,” Barnes said. “The presumption of innocence until proven guilty is what we should expect from our judicial system, but that standard is not always applied equally. We have seen so many black and brown youth killed, only to be put on trial posthumously, while the innocence of Kyle Rittenhouse was virtually demanded by the judge.”
Political figures on the right, meanwhile, welcomed the verdict and condemned the case brought against Rittenhouse.
Mark McCloskey, who got in trouble with the law when he and his wife waved a rifle and a handgun at Black Lives Matter protesters marching past his St. Louis home in 2020, said the verdict shows that people have a right to defend themselves from a “mob.” He is now a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri.
The Kenosha case was part of an extraordinary confluence of trials that reflected the deep divide over race in the United States: In Georgia, three white men are on trial in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, while in Virginia, a trial is underway in a lawsuit over the deadly white-supremacist rally held in Charlottesville in 2017.
The bloodshed in Kenosha took place during a summer of sometimes-violent protests set off across the U.S. by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other cases involving the police use of force against Black people.
Rittenhouse went to Kenosha from his home in nearby Antioch, Illinois, after businesses were ransacked and burned in the nights that followed Blake’s shooting. Rittenhouse carried a weapon authorities said was illegally purchased for the underage young man, and joined other armed civilians on the streets.
Bystander and drone video captured most of the frenzied chain of events that followed: Rittenhouse killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, then shot to death protester Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded demonstrator Gaige Grosskreutz, now 28.
Then-President Donald Trump said it appeared Rittenhouse had been “very violently attacked.” Supporters donated more than $2 million toward his legal defense.
At trial, prosecutors portrayed Rittenhouse as a “wannabe soldier” who had gone looking for trouble that night and was responsible for creating a dangerous situation in the first place by pointing his rifle at demonstrators.
But Rittenhouse testified he came under attack: “I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself.”
Breaking into sobs at one point, he told the jury he opened fire after Rosenbaum chased him and made a grab for his gun. He said he was afraid his rifle was going to be wrested away and used to kill him.
Huber was then killed after hitting Rittenhouse in the head or neck with a skateboard, and Grosskreutz was shot after pointing a gun of his own at Rittenhouse.
After the verdict, Huber’s parents, Karen Bloom and John Huber, said the outcome “sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street.”
Richards, the defense attorney, said that Rittenhouse wants to be a nurse and that he is in counseling for post traumatic stress disorder and will probably move away because “it’s too dangerous” for him to continue to live in the area.
Going in, many legal experts said they believed the defense had the advantage because of provisions favorable to Rittenhouse in Wisconsin self-defense law and video showing him being chased at key moments. Testimony from some of the prosecution’s own witnesses also seemed to buttress his claim of self-defense.
Witnesses described Rosenbaum as “hyperaggressive” and said that he dared others to shoot him and threatened to kill Rittenhouse earlier that night. A videographer testified Rosenbaum lunged for the rifle just before he was shot, and a pathologist said his injuries appeared to indicate his hand was over the barrel.
Rittenhouse had also been charged with possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18, a misdemeanor that carries nine months behind bars and appeared likely to lead to a conviction.
But the judge threw out that charge before deliberations after the defense argued that the Wisconsin law did not apply to the long-barreled rifle used by Rittenhouse.
Trinity School of Texas students on Friday saw their labor bear (canned) fruit as they loaded up items donated to the Longview Thanksgiving Food Drive.
Junior and seniors Friday morning placed about 6,000 cans of donated food into a truck headed to Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center as part of what will be given away next week with the city’s annual food drive.
The Longview Thanksgiving Food Drive is set Monday, with donations accepted noon to 6 p.m. outside Maude Cobb. Families in the Longview area are pre-approved to receive donations.
Families will pick up food boxes Tuesday.
Student government sponsor Tovah Robertson said the school again this year used a combination of physical can donations and online monetary donations in its drive.
“Historically, over the years, we’ve donated anywhere between 15 (thousand) and 23,000 can each year,” Robertson said. “We’ll end up somewhere around there based on the money that we’ve also raised.”
Trinity started offering the online donation option this past year as a way to keep the drive going during the COVID-19 pandemic. Robertson said the money goes to Super 1, and the grocer can determine which gaps in available food need to be filled and then purchase those items for the drive.
“So, it ends up being a really flexible workaround,” she said.
Robertson said Trinity students from age 2 through seniors participate in the drive.
Seniors Macy Cobb and Sophie Cook are co-presidents of the school’s student government association, the group in charge of the drive each year.
Cobb said the pair used their study hall to make runs to round up cans and gather them in the library as they ran the drive.
“I think it’s very important because it gives back to our community,” Cobb said. “I also like the atmosphere of it at Trinity because we all get together from 2s to seniors in one spot and help take it to the truck. I think it’s really fun and good.”
Cook talked about a chapel service at the school during which students brought cans that were prayed over.
“At Trinity, we are very privileged to be here, and doing this service allows us to help the community and provide them Thanksgiving food,” she said.
The rates of lung cancer in East Texas are the highest in the state and are directly related to higher tobacco consumption, according to Smith County Health Authority Dr. Paul McGaha.
According to McGaha, 15% of Texans use tobacco products. In East Texas, 16% of people use tobacco products. In the 35-county East Texas area, that rate is 20%.
Although those rates have been declining during the past five years, McGaha said East Texas is still above the state’s rate, and Texas is at about the national rate.
“We still have work to be done on our tobacco usage in East Texas,” he said.
McGaha added this has been something that has been discussed for years, and said it has been driving much of the poor health in East Texas.
“Smoking is not only a risk factor for tobacco use, it’s a risk factor for high blood pressure, all sorts of other cancers and heart disease. It’s central to our public health communication in the East Texas area that people strongly consider tobacco cessation,” he said.
McGaha added that tobacco is a highly addictive substance, and that people in rural areas of East Texas are generational smokers.
“It all adds up to a serious situation where we have way too many tobacco users,” he said.
Although some people really want to quit smoking, McGaha said, it’s a hard habit to kick. On average, McGaha said it takes 12 attempts for a smoker to finally quit smoking.
Anew report from the American Lung Association shows Texas ranks almost last in the nation when it comes to treating lung cancer, surgery and screening for lung cancer.
The fourth annual “State of Lung Cancer” report released for 2021 examines rates of new cases, survival, early diagnosis, surgical treatment, lack of treatment and screening.
For the second consecutive year, the report explores the lung cancer burden among racial and ethnic minority groups at the national and state levels. In Texas, the report shows that Black Americans are the least likely to receive surgical treatment.
The report revealed the national lung cancer five-year survival rate increased from 14.5% to 23.7%. It remains significantly lower among communities of color. While the national lung cancer survival rate increased, it remains at 20% for communities of color and at 18% for Black Americans.
The report found that Texas ranked 10 in the nation, and above average, for new cases of lung cancer. The rate of new cases is about 50 and lower than the national rate of 58. During the past five years, that rate has improved by 11%, according to the report.
Texas is 27th in the nation, and below average, for the number of people with the disease who survive — 22.5% of people are alive five years after diagnosis.
Among 49 states with data, Texas ranked 42nd and below average for early diagnosis, meaning 22.1% of cases were caught at an early stage. Nationally, 24.5% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage .
The Lone Star State also ranked 45th in the nation for lung cancer screenings, meaning nearly 2% of those at high risk of lung cancer were screened compared with the national rate of 5.7%. According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer screenings with annual low-dose CT scans for those at high risk can reduce the lung cancer death rate by up to 20%.
Texas also ranked 44th in the nation for surgery. Lung cancer can often be treated with surgery if it is diagnosed at an early stage and if it has not spread. Nationally, 20.7% of cases underwent surgery, while in Texas, 16% of those underwent surgery, according to the American Lung Association’s report.
Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States and Texas, McGaha said, and it accounts for one in five deaths across the country and in Texas.
For help to stop smoking, call 1-811-YES-QUIT.
WASHINGTON — The House handed President Joe Biden a victory Friday by approving a roughly $2 trillion social and environment bill, as Democrats cast aside disputes that for months had stalled the measure and hampered efforts to sell their priorities to voters.
Lawmakers approved the legislation 220-213 as every Democrat but one backed it, overcoming unanimous Republican opposition. The measure now heads to the Senate, where changes are certain and disputes between cost-conscious Democratic moderates and progressives who seek bold policy changes will flare anew.
For the moment, Democrats were happy to shake off a dispiriting period of off-year election setbacks, tumbling Biden poll numbers and public disgruntlement over inflation, stalled supply chains and the pandemic. All that and the party’s nasty internal bickering have left voters with little idea of how the legislation might help them, polls have shown.
“Above all, it puts us on the path to build our economy back better than before by rebuilding the backbone of America: working people and the middle class,” Biden said in a statement.
He told reporters at the White House he expected the legislation to “take awhile” to move through the Senate but declared, “I will sign it. Period.”
The legislation, among the most expensive in years, is remarkable for its reach. It rewrites tax, health care, environment, education, housing and other policies, shoring up low- and middle-income families, helping the elderly and combating climate change.
Most of it would be paid for with tax boosts on the country’s highest earners, biggest corporations and companies doing business abroad. That includes new surtaxes on people earning over $10 million annually and a corporate minimum tax.
Because of its size, scope and status as a symbol of what Democrats stand for, each party thinks the package will help in next year’s midterm elections, when Republicans have a solid chance at capturing House and Senate control.
“Hey, hey, goodbye,” GOP lawmakers sang, taunting Democrats during the vote. Republicans call the measure a waste of money that will worsen budget deficits, overheat an inflation-battered economy and show voters that Democrats can’t resist ever-larger government.
Democrats see the 2,100-page legislation as overdue and long-lasting help for a vast swath of the nation.
The bill “will be the pillar of health and financial security in America,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “If you are a parent, a senior, a child, a worker, if you are an American, this bill is for you.”
“Build Back Better,” chanted Democrats, embracing and jumping with glee at the front of the chamber as the roll call wound down. That’s the name Biden has given the bill — a companion piece to his other domestic priority, the bipartisan $1 trillion package of broadband, road and other infrastructure projects he signed into law this week.
In Congress’ latest dose of partisan bitterness, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., had delayed the latest bill’s expected approval on Thursday when he unleashed an eight hour and 32 minute diatribe against the legislation, the president and Democrats.
McCarthy glared as Democrats booed and groaned during what became the longest speech in House history, remarks that included personal insults aimed at Pelosi. As minority leader in 2018, she held the previous record, speaking for eight hours and seven minutes about immigration.
“I don’t know if it’s a farewell tour,” McCarthy said of recent trips to Europe by Pelosi, who some think may be serving her last term in Congress. “If it is, I want a T-shirt.”
Most of the bill’s costs come from mountains of new spending, though there are also hundreds of billions in tax credits for encouraging certain goals.
It has over $500 billion for clean energy projects plus tax incentives for utilities turning to less polluting fuels and people buying electric vehicles. There’s money for child care, job training, housing, free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, in-home care for seniors and new hearing benefits for Medicare recipients.
People, and the government, too, would save money from new curbs on prescription drug prices, though the provisions are modest compared to tougher requirements most Democrats preferred. There would be extended tax credits for families with children, for some low-earning workers and for people purchasing private health coverage.
In language that helped win support from lawmakers from high-cost coastal states, the bill would increase federal deductions people can take for state and local taxes. The provision, which would largely benefit affluent earners, would cost above $220 billion over the next five years, making it one of the legislation’s costliest programs.
The measure would also finance a new requirement for four weeks of paid family leave and create temporary work permits so millions of immigrants could remain in the U.S. up to a decade. Both face an uncertain fate in the Senate.
That chamber’s 50-50 split plus solid GOP opposition gives every Democrat veto power. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who helped slash the bill’s 10-year cost from its earlier $3.5 trillion, has opposed the family leave provision. And the Senate parliamentarian enforces rules that make it hard to include policy-heavy provisions like major immigration law changes.
The bill would worsen projected budget deficits, already huge, by $160 billion over the coming decade, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated. That would be higher except for $207 billion in projected extra tax collections by bolstering IRS spending for audits, largely of the rich.
Both parties worry about deficits selectively. Republicans passed tax cuts in 2017 that worsened red ink by $1.9 trillion, while Democrats enacted a COVID-19 relief bill this year with that same price tag.