Did Kyle Rittenhouse Have to Testify to be Found Not Guilty?

The Kyle Rittenhouse trial has divided the nation. From President Joe Biden using the theme of “White Supremacy” with the allegations to many of Donald Trump supporters arguing this was a case where self-defense was necessary, political affiliations and the rise of COVID-19 had the nation drawn to this trial. When the jury had spoken, Rittenhouse was found not guilty, which has sparked many protests from groups such as “Black Lives Matter” and the “ACLU.”  The question we address today is whether a different outcome would have occurred had Rittenhouse not taken the stand? To gain insight on this matter, we spoke to several of the top lawyers in the state of Michigan for their points of view.

Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of “McManus and Amadeo” in Washtenaw County, Michigan. (https://www.mcmanusamadeo.com/). He is known as one of the top business attorneys in the state.  McManus stated, “There is a lot that goes into placing a client on the stand. Wisconsin law is very different than Michigan. CNN and Fox News both seemed to believe Rittenhouse was in the driver’s seat at the close of Prosecutor Binger’s case, so it appeared to be a risk at the onset.”

Jennifer Kelley is a Senior Associate for McManus and Amadeo and one of the top divorce lawyers in Michigan. (https://www.mcmanusamadeo.com/jennifer-kelley.html). Kelley added her thoughts when she said, “When a matter goes to trial in a divorce case, parties take the stand. That is a major factor as to why many cases settle. Rittenhouse taking the stand presented a lot of risks. The jury believed he was sincere, but that gamble could’ve gone several different directions.”

Megan (Mast) Smith is an Associate Attorney at “Tanis Schultz” and “Grabel and Associates.” (https://www.tanisschultz.com/about-us/megan-mast-smith/). She is known as a top criminal defense attorney in Kent County, Michigan. Smith said, “Studies show that defendants taking the stand hurts their chances, but the law in Wisconsin is highly different than the law in Michigan.  In Wisconsin, the jury will hear from the defendant, or a guilty verdict becomes probable.  Putting Rittenhouse on the stand was the right decision from a strategy perspective.”

Ashlee Duplessis is a top criminal defense lawyer in Wayne County, Michigan, and has been involved in many capital cases. (https://detroitlegaldefense.com/). When asked about Rittenhouse, Duplessis stated, “In Wayne County, the jury picks sides after Voir Dire.  In Michigan, unlike Wisconsin if you assert self-defense, the defendant must take the stand.  Despite what the law states, Rittenhouse taking the stand was a requirement in this case.  If we look at this from legality and not morality perspective, we see that the risk/reward analysis was required.”

Christian Wiesenberg is a Defense lawyer with Fidelis Law. On the Board of Directors for “The Adolescent Redemption Project.” (https://www.linkedin.com/in/christian-wiesenberg-5632a164/). He provided his thoughts. Wiesenberg stated, “Being young and being white helped Rittenhouse a great deal. Studies will display that youthful defendant garner more sympathy from juries, and minorities are treated more severely. Placing Rittenhouse on the stand was the correct procedural move.”

William Amadeo is a Partner at McManus and Amadeo and is arguably the top criminal defense lawyer in Michigan.  (https://www.linkedin.com/in/bill-amadeo-5031a925/). Amadeo gained notoriety with his win on the Eric Coleman trial, a Castle Doctrine case, and is known to be aggressive in self-defense cases. Amadeo said, “With Eric’s (Coleman) case, we had to put him on the stand. You cannot have a self-defense case in Michigan and not place the defendant on the stand. Technically, Wisconsin is different as the burden still lies with the prosecution but let’s be real. Isn’t it always the defense’s burden in a capital case? Social media and our country is divided over the verdict. Still, the reality is this, the defense team for Rittenhouse knew he had to take the stand to get a not guilty verdict. For those upset about the verdict, we have to remember that trying a case on social media is dangerous. When the prosecutor does so, it displays desperation. The defense did not win this case; the prosecution lost.”

While the debate is ongoing about whether or not the verdict was just, the jury has spoken.  While many compare this trial to the Derek Chauvin case, there are vast differences.  The Rittenhouse verdict will set the tone is yet to be seen but rest assured, politics will play a role in the ongoing debate.

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