A recent New York Times story compares the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse with that of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers, asserting that they are “strikingly similar stories: men took up guns in the name of protecting the public and when they wound up killing unarmed people, they claimed self-defense.
” This comparison is superficial and misleading. True, the defendants in both trials are claiming self-defense. And one could also argue that the defendants share a penchant for vigilantism, albeit of a different kind. Nevertheless, the details playing out before the trials’ respective juries reveal many more differences than similarities.
Perhaps the most crucial distinction is that Rittenhouse — a lone 17-year-old — fatally shot men who were chasing and assaulting him. Whereas Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael fatally shot a man whom they were chasing, a man to whom they gave no means of escape, trapping him between vehicles, with the assistance of their accomplice William Bryan. Arbery’s killers were already pointing guns at him at the critical moment when Arbery lunged at Travis McMichael. If anyone had a claim to self-defense in such an instance, it was surely Arbery.
And Rittenhouse’s lawyers persuasively argued that Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber — the two men shot dead — initiated the aggression in the immediate run-up to their deaths.
Moreover, while it is true that the defendants in both trials “took up guns in the name of protecting the public,” as the Times story put it — Rittenhouse says he traveled to Kenosha, where a friend was keeping a legally purchased AR-15 for him, and that his goal the night of August 25 was to safeguard property. The prosecution failed to prove that he traveled to Kenosha with a manhunt or killing spree in mind.
However, as my former colleague David French wrote in an examination of the facts last year, Georgia law permits a citizen’s arrest only in “very narrow circumstances,” so that “a private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge.” But there is no evidence that Arbery had done anything to forfeit his civil liberties. As David notes:
The only “offense” committed in anyone’s presence is the report of a person walking into a construction site.
In fact, video footage showed that multiple people — including Arbery — had wandered onto the property.
Meanwhile, during Arbery trial, it is the defense team that is floundering. They attempted to argue that Arbery’s mother sobbing in the courtroom would prejudice the jury. Regardless of the killers’ guilt or innocence, who could fault a mother for grieving for her dead son?
Which brings us to what ought to be the most significant difference of all.
Why then should a foolish teenage boy’s involvement in white-on-white violence in Wisconsin get more attention than the shooting of an unarmed black man in Georgia? The answer is not about what Kyle Rittenhouse did or didn’t do. Rather it’s about what his “white male tears” represent. Never mind truth, or even justice. Once again, progressive narratives show little regard for the facts of an individual case.