Justice delayed is justice denied.
Those words came to mind last week when we read that the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, which was scheduled for late this month, has been pushed back all the way to November.
Rittenhouse, the Illinois teen is accused of killing two men and wounding a third in the Kenosha riots on Aug. 25 — nearly seven months ago.
The facts of the case seem to us pretty straightforward — even if the issues surrounding it are not.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide attempted first-degree intentional homicide, along with other felonies, for killing Anthony Huber of Silver Lake and Joseph Rosenbaum of Kenosha and seriously injuring Gaige Grosskreutz of West Allis during protests in Kenosha.
Rittenhouse has maintained he acted in self-defense in the shootings. He travelled to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Il., apparently to join a call for home-styled militia to protect Kenosha businesses that were under siege during three days of violent protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. He was armed with an AR-15, which technically he was not allowed to own since he was underage.
The issue of exactly what happened can, and should, be sorted out by a jury. Sooner, not later.
But last week, the prosecutor in the case, Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, and defense attorney Mark Richards told Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder that they needed more time to prepare — and they were still working on gathering evidence, including DNA testing.
That rings a little hollow to us. We’re not working on the case, of course, but it seems to us that all that evidence should be evident by now.
Judge Schroeder, although he went along with the joint request, seemed to harbor doubts as well.
“Mr. Rittenhouse, this case is getting older. We’re probably going to go a year from the time you were charged, plus,” Schroeder said, “Do you have any problem with the extension that is being talked about?”
Rittenhouse responded, “No, Your Honor.”
Of course not. Why would he? Rittenhouse is out on bail posted by conservative pro-gun supporters and is free to go about his daily life. And he is likely aware that as each day goes by the memories of witnesses will fade a little and some may even move away — increasing his chances for acquittal.
That’s not the case for the families of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum who will get no closure in the deaths of their son. Their pain will continue to linger throughout the summer and into next fall.
A Wisconsin Department of Justice report in 1996 found that in felony cases the average length of time from arrest to sentencing was 219 days.
Rittenhouse’s case will likely take double that before the trial is concluded. It’s a delay that will continue to hurt the families of the victims and does not serve the cause of justice.