In our American legal system, there is a principle that all people are innocent until they are proven guilty in a court of law.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Emma: Hi, Brittany.
Brittany: Hi, Emma.
Emma: We record these podcasts a bit in advance, but as of the time that we are talking right now, today, it is the day after a very important, very, exciting, and interesting court case in America. And that is Kyle Rittenhouse versus the state of Wisconsin. Now, you may have heard some bits and pieces of this case, and we talk about it a bit in the last episode, but I just wanna give another really quick rundown so that we’re all on the same page, and also because the evidence that came up in the trial is very different from what the media has been portraying in the picture that they’ve been painting. But we’ll, we’ll get into that more later. So, last year when riots were happening across the country, a lot of them were race-related, black Lives Matter related. There were some particularly violent ones happening in Kenosha, Wisconsin. And a teenager, a 17-year-old named Kyle Rittenhouse went to he says that he went to Kenosha to, assist with medical help for anyone who needed it at the protest to clean up graffiti. And it’s a little bit hazy, but, some accounts say that he went to help guard a used car lot and he brought a gun called an AR-15 with him. It’s a kind of rifle, which under Wisconsin law it is legal for him to carry. And legal, I said that kind of quickly, I wanna be clear, It is legal, completely legal for him to carry that gun in Wisconsin. Brittany, can you just say a quick version of sort of what happened after he got there that night?
Brittany: Yes, absolutely. And while there is video, I think with the young kids, maybe you don’t watch it, but, that night.
Emma: Oh, no, no. Yeah,
Brittany: Yeah. So don’t, maybe don’t Google it. Don’t watch it. But that night, Kyle was attacked by four men who had been following him around and harassing him. These were people who let me back up a little bit. There had been, was it a police shooting?
Emma: Yes. So the police had shot a man and.
Brittany: Jacob, Blake. Am I getting that it?
Emma: It yes. Jacob Blake.
Brittany: Okay. Jacob Blake. Which again, we do not support, you know, police do not have the right to be jury, what is it, judge Jury Execut executioner? No, he lived, I think he is paralyzed now? So it again, not great. But there were protests going on. This was right after George Floyd. So people were heated, people were sick of being locked up with the pandemic. So Kyle was there to protect property. He had a gun, he was chased, threatened. And he thought he feared for his life. He thought that he was going to be killed and he was hit with a skateboard. and he had his gun grabbed. You know, anybody knows, I mean, if somebody’s grabbing your gun, that seems like a pretty big threat to your life. Yeah. And, he thought that that gun was going to be used against him. So he ended up using his AR-15 to defend himself and he killed the two people who came after him. And he wounded one more. Now he turned himself into the police and cooperated with law enforcement, which is weird to me cuz I feel like the prosecution tried to say he didn’t do that. but he charged.
Emma: He tried, but the police station was all barred up. He couldn’t even go in.
Brittany: That’s right. Yeah. So here he is trying to do it and it should be noted that at this point the police was basically saying, you’re on your own. We can’t contain this anymore. Yeah. So he was charged with murder and a misdemeanor gun charge by the state of Wisconsin. And it became a very pro-high profile case. As, as you know, the whole nation has been watching this.
Emma: Yeah. It’s, been crazy how much media attention this has drawn. And the media, of course, the mainstream media immediately started calling Kyle A. White supremacist and claiming that he had killed three black men, which is multiple problems with that statement. not that it should matter whose race, but the men that he killed were white and he only killed two people, which still, I’m, this is not good to kill people.
Brittany: Two lives. Yeah. Nobody’s, like.
Emma: The whole situation is not good, but lying about the facts is a big deal. And the media needs to get these things right. It is a huge problem to claim that someone, you know, killed more people than they killed the facts. The details matter a lot here. And they also claimed very often that he crossed state lines with an illegally owned AR-15, even though it was found in the trial that the gun never crossed state lines. And he was actually carrying it legally under Wisconsin law. And, you know, not only the media did this, but so many politicians all the way up through Congress, calling him a white supremacist, saying that he broke all of these laws, calling him a murderer. Joe Biden even called him a white supremacist in a campaign ad during the election, and he still has not taken that statement back. Some people are saying that Kyle needs to, sue the president for defamation, which I would love to see. But, he was, he was a 17-year-old at the time, and although he lived a few miles away in Illinois with his mom, he was a volunteer lifeguard in Kenosha. And he was training as a police cadet and as an EMT and his dad lived in Kenosha. But that did not stop the dishonest and sloppy reporters and commentators from painting him as they basically wanted him to be seen as like a school shooter who traveled hours and hours and went there looking for violence. But that is just, that is not the case. And that’s what the jury found. They ultimately declared him not guilty on all five counts that he had been charged with. And this is the interesting thing is they all tried to paint him as guilty as soon as all of this stuff came out. No. Before
Brittany: No, before there was never ever even an investigation, he was just guilty.
Emma: Right, exactly. And that’s why we’re talking today about the presumption of innocence and presumption is basically like assuming something. It’s, saying, gosh, Brittany, how would you explain presumption? You, know, the legal.
Brittany: Yeah. I, like that you said assuming, cuz presume you kind of like Right. You know, make the juice. So it’s basically saying an assumption. It’s almost like a prejudice. yeah. So presume, think of pre-right. You’re making an assumption, you’re assuming something before you have the facts. So before anybody knew what happened before there was, you know, an investigation, they were saying, all right, just on the little information we have, we’re going to say he’s guilty.
Emma: Yeah, exactly. So the presumption of innocence is super important in America. It is a very, unique, very crucial part of our legal system. And basically, what presumption of innocence is, it is the assumption in the baseline that everyone is innocent until they are proven guilty. And if you’ve ever heard that phrase innocent until proven guilty, that is a presumption of innocence. That’s, basically what that means. And that was really important in this case because everyone basically just came out and said, well, Kyle is guilty, he’s a murderer, he’s a white supremacist. Before the court case had even started. And because the public opinion had been so swayed for so long, before Kyle had his day in court and before the evidence was seen, there are a lot of people out there who are wrongly thinking that he’s completely guilty and that he, you know, murdered a bunch of people. That is simply not what the facts say. But when you, presume someone is guilty based on all of these assumptions, you know, you can, you can sort of ruin their life before they even get their day in court. And this is not something that’s unique to Kyle Rittenhouse. This has happened to a lot of people in America where they get to court and the facts are completely different, but everyone’s already made up their minds. And that is a real problem. And I think it even ties in with cancel culture, which we talk about a lot here. But Brittany, do you wanna talk a bit about, the death penalty and how that can sort of play into this problem?
Brittany: Yeah, so I mean, I think the biggest problem with the death penalty and we’ve talked about this, is that a lot of times it’s innocent people dying. We didn’t have DNA evidence. DNA is like the things they can tell from your blood or even like your hair left behind on a scene or sweat or something like that. So, in fact, there’s a comedian that has a joke that back in the day, they’d go to a crime scene and be like, oh, there’s some blood. Let’s clean that up. Because now if you see, you know, any forensic police officer that’s somebody who goes to the scene to collect information on something, they’re going to run tests on that. And, maybe sometimes they can find out, oh, this person wasn’t at the scene of the crime. Okay, you’re innocent. But we didn’t, always have that. And so people who were on death row, those are the people who are waiting to be executed, a lot of them didn’t have that available to them. In fact, I think Kamala Harris like denied some evidence of somebody in one of those situations. But I won’t get into that here. So the death penalty is sometimes innocent people dying. So I think that’s an important, you know, thing to remember. And we’ve talked about the death penalty recently and just how horrific it is because if there’s one thing the government should not have the right to do, it’s take your life in fact life, liberty, you know, property pursuit of happiness. So, I think that that’s really important and we need to be absolutely sure. Then again, I don’t believe the death penalty at all, but we need to be absolutely sure when we’re trying people that they are guilty. And one way we do this is we assume that they are innocent until proven guilty. That’s that presumption of innocence.
Emma: Yeah, exactly. And you know that that’s such an important part of our country too, is we have a constitutional right in the Bill of Rights to a jury of our peers. So basically the people who decide whether we’re guilty or not guilty, they need to be from our community. They need to be people that are peers of ours. So people who are from the same place and generally the same, the same, gosh, I don’t wanna say background, but it needs to be a fair trial where it’s not just government deciding every single time, you know, whether someone’s life is spent in jail or whether they get to go free. And that’s super important because people need to be able to see this evidence clearly. And the whole process of jury selection is very interesting to me. And Brittany, I think you had mentioned one time that, when you got called for jury duty, they let you go because they found out you were a libertarian. Is that right? Am I remembering that one?
Brittany: No, I was hoping, I was hoping they wouldn’t actually be pleasantly surprised. They applauded me for like, Oh. I was like ready to get kicked out cause I didn’t wanna be there. And then they’re like, oh yeah, you can definitely nullify it. I’m like, dang it.
Emma: That’s awesome. That’s really cool. I think that that is such an interesting part, a lot of people will complain about getting jury duty and they’ll try to get out of it or they’ll try to say their safe first.
Brittany: I didn’t wanna be there
Emma: Right? Yeah. It’s a lot of times it’s very boring stuff. I think this case we’re talking about is totally the exception, but I think jury duty is a very cool civic duty to have because you get the chance to help decide, you know, what’s gonna happen to this person. And this jury in this case had a really important job. They saw a lot of evidence and gosh, what a hard case to try to figure out. I mean, there was so much going on, but I’m really proud of them for their bravery because there was a lot of intimidation also happening. Their bus that was taking them to and from the courtroom was actually followed by a journalist from NBC. And they’re still trying to get to the bottom of the facts here, but that is at least what the police in Kenosha and what the judge had been saying. And he actually banned NBC from the courtroom, which is pretty crazy.
Brittany: Yes, I saw that.
Emma: They had to report from outside the courtroom and, you know, there have been so many threats made to the lawyers, threats made even to the judge’s son, which is really crazy because again, it goes back to this that people had their minds made up about this case before it even happened. And it’s kind of going into what we call mob rule or mob justice, which is when sort of just this angry mass of people who all have their biases and have their presumptions just decide that someone’s guilty and decide that, you know, anyone who disagrees with me is just wrong.
Brittany: Orally yeah. Morally incorrect. Right. Because they’re thinking with their emotions. They’re not thinking about this is the way the law works or thinking this is how I believe, therefore. Yes. The person should be guilty.
Emma: Exactly. And, you know, tying into that a little bit, I did see a few liberal, you know, people who are not big on guns. people that are more like democrats are more moderate and maybe didn’t love what Kyle did, who said, I watched this case and my opinion is completely different than it was going into it. And I have to admit, even me personally when I saw all of this happened, I was, not super sympathetic to Kyle. I’m, I just thought, well, he shouldn’t have really been there. Like, that doesn’t seem like a great idea, just to be completely honest with you guys. And watching the trial. My mind was completely changed and I went into it with a fairly open mind. But imagine if you were someone who, like, I don’t really trust the media at all. Like, we talk about this constantly, but imagine if you’re someone who takes everything that you know, the general population says, or everything you see on social media or everything you see on tv, and you try to keep an open mind when it comes to whether someone’s innocent or guilty. It makes it really difficult. So I think that’s kind of where I want to start wrapping it up here today is this concept that we can’t allow, you know, this mob mentality to let us rush to judge people. It is very, very important that if we preserve this amazing thing we have in America, that we take the time to look at the facts and to assume that everyone is innocent until they are proven guilty beyond the shadow of a doubt. Especially when we’re talking about, you know, people spending their lives in jail. And especially too if this is, if you’re in a state with a death penalty, even more so. And that’s why I’m against the death penalty is because I don’t believe a lot of times that you can know for certain whether or not someone did something worthy of being put to death. And even if, you know, in theory, you agree with the idea if someone did something really bad, you know, they should go to jail. Sometimes these juries can be on a total razor where it can go one way or the other. And I just don’t believe we can ever be quite certain enough to say that someone needs to die for a crime that we may have no way of knowing whether they did it or not. So, Brittany, do you have anything else to add before we wrap up here?
Brittany: I think you hit the nail on the head and I think it’s important on both sides to remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, even when we don’t agree. That’s when your real character shows is when you don’t agree with someone and you stick to your principles.
Emma: Yes. And if you guys want to read an amazing book about this idea and about courtroom stuff and this whole thing, it’s being banned in certain schools, which is crazy to me. But To Kill a Mockingbird obviously, check with your Oh,
Brittany: That’s so great, yeah.
Emma: Check with your parents because you know, there is some stuff in it that’s a little heavy. And depending on how old you are, they may wanna, you know, talk through that with you. But I read that book when I was, I wanna say 11 or 12, and it really opened my eyes to the power of the legal system when it is, when it is being run the right way and the wrong way and people rushing to judgment. So, amazing book, highly recommend and we will leave it at that. Guys, thank you so much for listening.
Brittany: Talk to you soon.