To the Editor: In the cases against both Kyle Rittenhouse and Travis McMichael (and others), what is really on trial is depraved and hateful vigilantism.
Laws can allow a private citizen to use physical force against a suspect if he has a reasonable belief that the suspect committed a crime, and the suspect did commit the crime of which he is suspected. But if these requirements are met, the private citizen is permitted to use physical force, but not deadly physical force—which can be deployed only if the private citizen has a reasonable fear of deadly physical force being used against himself or another person.
If the private citizen provokes the threatening situation that leads to his use of deadly force, he loses the right to claim self-defense as a justification for using deadly force. In the Ahmaud Arbery Case, Travis McMichael is seen in the video running at Arbery holding a shotgun, which would appear to be a clear provocation. Likewise, in the Kyle Rittenhouse case, we have Rittenhouse running around with a semi-automatic gun, and this would appear to be a clear provocation.
It's important to note that the only people killed throughout that Kenosha, Wisconsin, protest were the two men shot by Kyle Rittenhouse. This is an indication, if not evidence, of provocation.
Vigilantism is clearly on trial in both cases, and the verdicts in these two trials could let American citizens know if we value peace and justice, or if we are returning to the Wild West era.
MICHAEL J. GORMAN
Editor's note: Mr. Gorman is a retired NYPD Lieutenant and an attorney.