KENOSHA WISCONSIN – NOVEMBER 10, Kyle Rittenhouse waits to see the jury enter the room. Witness at Rittenhouse’s trial in Kenosha County Courthouse, November 10, 2021. Kenosha County Courthouse is located in Kenosha. Rittenhouse was accused of killing two demonstrators and shooting Jacob Blake seven times in his back during unrest in Kenosha. Rittenhouse was 17, from Antioch in Illinois. He was armed with an assault weapon. The charges against Rittenhouse include felony attempted and felony murder. (Photo by Sean Krajacic–Pool/Getty Images).
Getty Images The debate about the Kyle Rittenouse case’s handling has been ongoing on social media since Friday’s “Not Guilty” verdict. Many celebrities, politicians and other pundits have contributed their opinions.
To the left, the verdict has been seen as a travesty of justice – while to many on the right, justice was served. One could even argue that his supporters noted that he got his moment in court. Some social media posts suggest the system may be broken. But the truth is, only one side is affected. AlwaysYou will be disappointed with the verdict.
Many continue to vent via social media.
We live in an era of extreme polarization, with controversial topics being constantly litigated at the court of public opinions. Craig Barkacs (JD) is an expert in business ethics and law at the University of San Diego School of Business. “In fact, many ‘systems’ are perpetually being put on trial in social media – our system of gun laws, our system of race relations, our system of policing the streets, and, yes, even our system of justice itself.”
Barkacs stated that this case was high-profile and had multiple verdicts cast long before trial began.
Although there have not been any comments directed at either the prosecution or defense, many legal professionals would say that even a poor prosecution could lose its case.
James R. Bailey from the George Washington University School of Business suggested that there could be “dissatisfaction” with the prosecution for having set the charges too high.
Bailey explained that murder requires evidence of premeditation. This was not possible. Why not bring charges for manslaughter, reckless endangerment and other crimes? These charges were easier to bring forward and could increase the likelihood of a guilty verdict.
It seems like a fair trial may never have happened based on the comments made via social media.
Bailey stated that Rittenhouse’s case is unusual in that everyone was already convinced of his guilt or innocence before trial. Bailey said that people had already decided whether Rittenhouse was innocent or guilty before any piece of evidence was even presented. No amount of evidence would have changed their minds.
Social Media: Debating it
All of these facts raise the question: What purpose does a social media debate have other than to create more arguments and widen divisions? The case seems predetermined, with a clearly drawn political divide.
Barkacs said that “there are no rules of proof, no orderly presentation or limits on the content of any statement, or even who can say it.” However, we have found ourselves in this situation as a country. Understanding, respect, and unity are in short supply—and social media has played a powerful role in creating such a scarcity. Too much social media appears to encourage users to become addicted to hate, anger and controversy. The systems that they embody are not only enduring, but individual players also go and disappear.
Unlike past high-profile trials – such as the infamous O.J. Simpson murder trial – where the news media regularly had actual legal experts weighing in throughout the trial, the Rittenhouse case was really one largely confined to the debate among “non-experts” on platforms designed for discussing far lighter topics.
Bailey explained that most exchanges regarding the case took place on social media. This is an inconvenient venue to discuss controversial issues. Because contributors have the ability to go from calm commenting to accusatory tirades, and rarely on the evidence available, Bailey believes. Contributors to social media have little chance of being fired for their irresponsible journalistic behavior.
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