Two recent criminal trials in the U.S. caught international attention. I refer to the Kyle Rittenhouse case in Wisconsin and the Ahmaud Arbery case in Georgia, the first known best by the name of the accused, the second by the name of the victim.

Both trials were defended on the basis of self-defence by men who apparently had not set out to kill anyone. They both claimed they simply intended to protect property. They killed a man, they insisted, because they feared for their lives. And they feared because they believed their unarmed victims were attempting to grab their gun. Ironically, while a weapon is supposed to offer security to its owner, in these instances it was the cause of their fear. If they hadn’t been armed, they needn’t have felt threatened and no one would have died.

Particularly puzzling is that despite the similarities of the cases, the outcomes were diametrically opposed. Rittenhouse walked, not guilty on all counts, while the Georgia shooter was convicted of malice murder and will be sent away for life. The outcomes were at the extremes of the possibilities. For essentially the same act.

So why the polar decisions? The quality of the lawyers? With a black victim and a white shooter, did the Georgia jury feel the weight of history? Some pundits have suggested the judge in the Rittenhouse case was biased against the prosecution.

Whatever the cause, the conflicting results do no credit to American justice. Either too much or too little it seems.

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