I understand the outrage, the shock, the horror, the disbelief, and the unfiltered emotions surrounding street violence. I have been a criminal law attorney for more than 27 years. I served as a local prosecutor in Manhattan and a federal prosecutor in Detroit. I am now a criminal defense attorney who handles both state and federal cases.
I understand the system and how investigations work. I struggle, however, to understand why people on both side of an issue rush to judgment. Is it because people see an opportunity to advance their agenda? Is it because no one wants the facts to get in the way of a good theory? Is it because people start with the conclusion first and then try to find the “facts”? Whatever the reason, rushing to judgment is not constructive and does little to bring about change.
I have more questions than answers regarding recent events in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Based on media reports, I understand that Jacob Blake, an African-American man, is paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by police. Video shows Mr. Blake walking away from officers who presumably ordered him not to do so. Mr. Blake then opens a car door and appears to reach inside. A police-officer then shoots Mr. Blake multiple times. Some media reports suggest Mr. Blake had struggled with officers prior to his walking around the front of the vehicle and opening the driver’s door.
Why did multiple police officers attempt to restrain Mr. Blake? Why were the officers there in the first place? Did officers attempt to use less-than-lethal force before Mr. Blake walked to a vehicle and opened the door? What was Mr. Blake reaching for inside the vehicle? What justification to use deadly force did the shooting officer perceive? These questions, and many more, require answers – before rushing to judgment.
As for the “protests” following the shooting, apparently the National Guard and federal law enforcement have been called to restore order after nights of violence in Kenosha. Most notably, last night two people were reportedly killed by gunfire. One widely circulated video shows a man with a rifle being chased by a crowd. When the man falls to the ground, people attack him. The man defends himself and fights back using the firearm.
Why was the armed man (believed to be Kyle Rittenhouse) being chased? Why was the armed man there in the first place? What does Wisconsin law require for someone to lawfully defend themselves with deadly force? Is being chased by a mob sufficient? How much disparity in numbers or force is enough? Did the armed man honestly and reasonably believe that the use of deadly force was immediately necessary to stop the threat of death or serious physical injury to himself or a third person (as is the standard in Michigan)?
For now, there are certainly more questions than answers.