Typewriter

The country is fascinated by the Kyle Rittenhouse acquittal. What we must not forget is that juries are not made up of 12 logical, objective humans. They are 12 regular people with prejudices, memories, and a sense that right and wrong have little real meaning because most of the world doesn’t honor the concepts of merit, right and wrong, or fairness. We pick sides according to how we see the world. For a young person who rapes three women – but come from a wealthy family – we notice that he gets probation while a poorer young man gets the book thrown at him.

It does no good to tell him, “That’s the way things are”; he doesn’t care about that. He sees what he thinks of as prejudice or favoritism. He doesn’t like it, but he’s usually unable to fight it. And when he gets the chance to fight back, he takes it. That’s when his passion and sense of justice are stirred to action as a member of a jury.

A jury of your peers represents democracy of a sort, but not perfection. A defendant is judged on the jury’s own terms. Perhaps a jury member lost a job to someone with better connections. Perhaps the defendant killed someone who is Black and the jury is prejudiced. Perhaps a white jury member was let go so that a minority could get hiring equality. There are a number of “perhaps” in each juror’s memory log. And this is their chance to “even the score.”

Logic, fairness, and right and wrong melt away, and only their memories remain. In theory, a jury is supposed to be objective and logical. But man is subjective and illogical by nature. Computer pros call human logic “fuzzy logic.”

So we needn’t be surprised that Republicans are cheering and Democrats are incensed by the Rittenhouse decision. Right or wrong, it’s only in a jury trial that the little guy gets the power to “settle a score.” He may be settling that score for himself or for a friend or family member who was abused in some way. It’s a power he seldom gets, but when he gets it, he uses it.

Jay Fenton

Washington