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Rittenhouse verdict disappoints outside courthouse of Arbery trial

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Yesterday, a Wisconsin jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of the charges he faced for fatally shooting two people and injuring another during unrest in Kenosha last year. The verdict brought cheers from some, including former President Donald Trump and protests from others, including in Portland overnight. And it's been met with disappointment outside the courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., where three white men are on trial after they chased and then killed Ahmaud Arbery, an African American, after they saw him jogging down a residential street.

NPR's Debbie Elliott has this report.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: News of Kyle Rittenhouse's acquittal spread quickly on the lawn of the Glynn County, Ga., Courthouse.

ARMIAH CRAWFORD: Oh (laughter).

ELLIOTT: Armiah Crawford (ph) and Mercury Gainer (ph) shake their heads in disbelief.

MERCURY GAINER: Personally, I was like - I was - it throw me off. I thought he would be - I thought they were going to find him guilty. But it was kind of like a shock.

ELLIOTT: Mercury Gainer.

GAINER: Knowing that this guy went and pursued people with his gun. And why? Just why?

ELLIOTT: Crawford says a double standard was at play in the way Rittenhouse's actions were judged, and he's concerned about the message this verdict might send.

CRAWFORD: That's kind of what I'm worried about now. Like, OK, if he can get off with that, then what can anybody else get off of it? That's crazy.

ELLIOTT: Crawford and Gainer, both from Brunswick, are among the people who have maintained a presence at the courthouse in support of Ahmaud Arbery's family since the trial started a month ago. His father, Marcus Arbery, was in court listening to the judge and lawyers hash out jury instructions yesterday when the Rittenhouse verdict came down. He doesn't understand how that jury affirmed Rittenhouse's claim of self-defense.

MARCUS ARBERY: Oh, God. It just scare you about this justice system. This world ain't going to never get right till this justice system get right and be fair and start putting these people in jail behind this unnecessary killing.

ELLIOTT: The men who chased Ahmaud Arbery with pickup trucks and shot him to death last year are also claiming self-defense. They say they suspected him in neighborhood break-ins and were trying to make a citizen's arrest. Marcus Arbery says the Rittenhouse verdict doesn't make him worry about the nearly all-white jury hearing the murder case over his son's killing because the facts are so different.

But Rebekah Moore (ph), an Army veteran and nursing student in Brunswick, does have concerns. She was already anxious about how the jury will judge the evidence. The Rittenhouse verdict doesn't help.

REBEKAH MOORE: I'm honestly very worried about it, worried that it sets a precedent for other people to do the same thing and get away with it. It's frightening.

ELLIOTT: Moore and Mary Coker (ph), a retired nurse from Oklahoma, are sitting together on the courthouse lawn considering the message out of Wisconsin.

MARY COKER: I just - I don't understand how he could have been found not guilty 'cause he was there. He had the weapon. I just don't...

MOORE: Imagine if he had been a young Black man, be a completely different story right now. That disgusts me. It makes me angry.

ELLIOTT: That's what P. Moses takes from the Rittenhouse verdict. She's a social justice activist from Memphis who sees two separate justice systems at work.

P MOSES: You have one for white people and you have one for Black people 'cause I guarantee if he was a Black boy that took a gun, whether he got it from a friend, if he had possessed it, he would be sitting in jail for that, if not anything else. But he took a gun and killed two people, and they let him out. There's no justice.

ELLIOTT: Lynn Whitfield is an attorney from Florida. She's with the Transformative Justice Coalition. She considers the Rittenhouse outcome a symptom of a bigger problem.

LYNN WHITFIELD: It was emboldened. This whole attitude of vigilante, and everything was emboldened for four years in our country. And people, you know, think that it's OK to hate. They think it's OK to pick up arms. They think it's OK to just shoot people because you think they doing something wrong or - I just think our whole country is broken. And, you know, we've got to find a way to fix it, or we won't have a democracy anymore.

ELLIOTT: As the nation digests the Rittenhouse verdict, closing arguments are set for Monday here in the Arbery case. Then the jury will begin deliberations.

Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Brunswick, Ga.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOMMY BERRE AND PETER LAINSON'S "STARFISH DREAM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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