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Kyle Rittenhouse found not guilty on all charges

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In Kenosha, Wis., today, Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all charges in his high-profile homicide trial. Rittenhouse opened fire last year during protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black resident. Rittenhouse shot and killed two people and wounded a third. Corrinne Hess of Wisconsin Public Radio has been covering this trial, and she joins us now.

Hi, Corrinne.

CORRINNE HESS, BYLINE: Hello.

CHANG: So this verdict came after more than 25 hours of deliberation on the fourth day the jury was out. I know that you were in the courtroom when the verdict was read. What was Rittenhouse's immediate reaction when he heard it?

HESS: Mr. Rittenhouse was charged with five felonies. As the juror read, not guilty, Rittenhouse got more and more emotional. By the third charge, Rittenhouse's lip began to quiver, and he started to cry. When all of the counts were read, Rittenhouse grabbed his chest and fell to his knees. Rittenhouse was picked up by someone on his defense team, and one of his lawyers hugged him. His mother and sisters have not been in the courtroom since the closing arguments on Monday. They were there for the verdict, and they were also very emotional.

CHANG: I can only imagine. Well, you know, the defense has said all along that this case was ultimately about self-defense. Can you just tell us more about their argument? And I understand that video played a key role in their theory.

HESS: Yeah, it really did. Self-defense was what the defense team always stressed, even as the prosecution liked to use terms like vigilantism. And video played a huge role. The jury even asked to see the video again while they deliberated.

CHANG: Well, what have we heard so far from the prosecution or the defense since the verdict was read?

HESS: The prosecution put out a statement saying that they're disappointed, but the verdict must be respected. The lead defense attorney, Mark Richards, met with media earlier this afternoon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARK RICHARDS: It's been a long day. It's been a long three weeks. We're very happy with the verdict. We're happy that the jury took the time, put in an incredible amount of effort. There were times we doubted the case. There were times we were confident. And to say that we were relieved would be a gross misunderstatement (ph).

CHANG: Well, Corrinne, you've been at the courthouse all day. What has been the - response like to this verdict right outside where you are?

HESS: The response has been mixed. When the verdict was read, there were cars honking their horns in support of Kyle Rittenhouse. And other people were visibly upset. Here's Bishop Tavis Grant - I'm sorry - the national field director for the Rainbow Push Coalition.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TAVIS GRANT: So this jury and this judge and this court and many of you in the media saw and heard for yourselves unprecedented rulings, unprecedented bias, unprecedented actions that gave this defendant the kind of leverage and liberty that brought about this verdict.

HESS: Of course, over the next few days, you know, a lot of people are going to have a lot of feelings about this. This was a national case, and it just had a lot of attention. And I think people are going to start expressing their feelings about how they - how they're doing in different ways.

CHANG: Absolutely. That is Corrinne Hess of Wisconsin Public Radio on the verdict today for Kyle Rittenhouse, who has been acquitted on all counts against him.

Thank you so much, Corrinne.

HESS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.