Today’s legal system is built upon the presumption of innocence, and everybody is entitled to have their day in court. Jumping to conclusions is a phenomenon where people reach an opinion based on insufficient information. An “alleged criminal” is just that alleged, and it is the legal system’s responsibility to PROVE them guilty. Why do people make uninformed decisions that are so often wrong?
Let’s begin in the 1600s with the puritans and the now infamous Salem witch trials. The accused women were presumed guilty before there was actual evidence. History shows us that making a decision based on emotion without adequate information can lead to severe outcomes we later regret. The women accused of witchcraft were guilty in the community’s eyes before they even appeared before the magistrates. The false assumptions resulted in the women losing their lives, and we look back on those trials as a lesson a person is innocent until proven guilty.
In March 2021, an armed 13-year-old named Adam Toledo fled down a dark alley and got shot as he confronted the police. He stopped and, as he spun around, the officer made a split-second decision on whether or not to shoot at the armed suspect. The officer couldn’t tell that Toledo had just tossed the gun, and he had nothing in his hands as he put his arms into the air. Everyone decided the officer was guilty without viewing the video from the body cam. Fortunately, the footage showed Toledo with the gun .8 seconds before the officer fired the fatal shot. Think about that! Toledo held the gun only 8/10’s of a second before being shot, but everyone had already made up their mind before the high-resolution body cam was released. Hysteria took over, and the media prematurely convicted the officer before the evidence was out. The officer’s actions were later determined to be justified.
A few days after the Kenosha riots, the court of public opinion had already determined Kyle Rittenhouse was guilty even though there were a lot of missing details. As more material became available, people started forming different views of what happened during the chaos. They had flooded the internet with videos, pictures, and statements, but we still didn’t know what happened as they entered the parking lot.
I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure about the first shooting where Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum began their interaction. What happened moments before the first fatal shots? Who was the initial aggressor? When the trial started, most people believed Rittenhouse was a vigilante, but I was hung up on who started the deadly encounter.
Then the drone footage shows up out of nowhere, and we can see how things unfold because it fills in many of the gaps. Watch the drone video and the infrared, and you get a much better view of the sequence of events.
Why hasn’t anyone talked about these videos possibly providing additional witnesses and preventing some of this mess? Strangely, there hasn’t been an investigation into how they appeared at the last minute. Let’s face it, none of this helped lessen the growing tensions that were out of control. I can only imagine what would have taken place if this led to a mistrial and what the price tag would have been after that hit the news. The “optics” definitely would not have looked the same.
You might wonder what this all has to do with carrying a gun for protection, but there are many lessons we can learn.
First, they made comments about Rittenhouse’s prior actions, and while that may go towards his state of mind, that in and of itself does not justify someone using lethal force. You cannot use deadly force because that person threatened to kill you a week before. A reasonable person must believe the threat had the intent to cause death or serious bodily harm when the attack takes place.
Second, it makes an enormous difference if you start the fight versus being attacked. If the person chasing you stops, you cannot turn around and pursue them because then you become the aggressor. There are exceptions to the rule, but they are few and far between, plus different jurisdictions have different laws.
Something to think about is the “optics” of an encounter. When you use lethal force, your lawyer needs to justify to the district attorney why you did what you did, and that should be that. In today’s world, we need to be concerned with how our actions appear in the court of public opinion. With Toledo and Rittenhouse, the final videos showed the public a different perspective, and some media outlets even started to change their tune. The district attorney may let you off, but the public may not!
If you have to use deadly force, the one thing you should say to the police and make a note of who might be a witness. Everyone carries a smartphone and then posts what they watched on social media, so as time goes on, the chances of someone recording what you did will only increase. You do not want the authorities to overlook the one person who may keep you out of prison. So, the next time you watch clips of a video or look at a single picture, don’t rush to judgment because things are not always as they appear.