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Rivers: No one should be surprised by the Rittenhouse verdict

Doc Rivers: "Our justice system is flawed. We keep being disappointed and keep having surprises, but nothing changes, and it’s sad.”

Sixers coach Doc Rivers talks about the Kyle Rittenhouse's acquittal.
Sixers coach Doc Rivers talks about the Kyle Rittenhouse's acquittal.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

PORTLAND, Ore. — Doc Rivers said no one should be surprised that Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges in the deadly Kenosha, Wisc. shootings.

Rittenhouse, a white 18-year-old male, testified that he acted in self defense while shooting three people. The trial became a hot topic in the debate over guns, vigilantism, and racial injustice in America.

“I felt it was a 1960′s trial from the time it started,” Rivers said Saturday. “You know, it’s unfortunate. Our justice system is flawed. We keep being disappointed and keep having surprises, but nothing changes, and it’s sad.”

Rittenhouse had been charged with homicide, attempted homicide, and reckless endangering for killing two men and wounding a third with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle in the summer of 2020 during a night of protests in Kenosha over the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white Kenosha police officer.

Rittenhouse, then a 17-year-old, said that he went to Kenosha to protect property from rioters, but that he came under attack and feared for his life while walking the streets with a machine gun. His victims were white.

The racial makeup of the anonymous jury was not disclosed by the court, but reportedly it appeared to be overwhelmingly white and had deliberated for close to 3 1/2 days.

“But that was a 1960s trial from the time it started,” Rivers said, “and you could feel it and you could see it and everyone knew. I really think that’s why there wasn’t as much of an outcry as you thought, because the fix was in. And you felt that way.

“Like I said before, it would be interesting if a Black kid had been walking down the middle of the street with a machine gun. I do agree with one thing: There wouldn’t had been a trial.”

Rivers added that “we can’t lose hope and have to keep fighting and talking.” He spoke to his players about the situation. He said the difference is these types of trials are out in the open now.

“Where in the ‘60s, there wasn’t even a report about these types of trials,” Rivers said. “I said ‘Mississippi Burning was released [24] years after the trial.’ I said now, ‘It’s right [now out] front. It has to be some good.’ I don’t know what it is, though.”

Rittenhouse’s acquittal comes one day after two Black men had their convictions for the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X thrown out of court. The exonerations of Muhammad A. Aziz, 83, and Khalil Islam, who died in 2009, come 56 years after the civil rights leader was murdered on the stage of Manhattan’s Audobon Ballroom. For decades, historians have cast doubt on the case against the two men, who each spent more than 20 years in prison.

Aziz was paroled in 1985. He and Islam tried to prove their innocence for decades, but the 22-month investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office and lawyers for the two men discovered that prosecutors, the FBI, and New York Police Department withheld key evidence that, had it been turned over, would likely have led to the men’s acquittal.

“The reason they were in jail was because the FBI and New York Police Department clearly falsified documents,” Rivers said. “So, they went to jail unjustly. The one guy died in jail and the one guy was let out, and the next day is the Rittenhouse [verdict].

“These guys spent [more than 20 years] in jail and they got an apology. The one guy never heard it, because he’s dead. Can you imagine?”

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