By Arthur O’Sullivan
This article concerns two ongoing criminal justice cases: the potential clemency grant to Julius Jones, and the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. I write this piece on November 11, and in the time between now and publication on the 17th, there will almost certainly be rulings and decisions that will make statements in this article outdated. I do not believe that there will be revelations significant enough to upend the cases’ trajectory, however, and I likewise believe that this moment of uncertainty is highly relevant to the troubled relationship between mass media and plain facts, as entire swathes of America allows itself to once again be caught up in “narrative truth,” rather than reality.
This article would not have been possible without those who take the time to objectively examine cases such as these. I would especially like to thank Sean Fitzgerald (Social Media Handle: Actual Justice Warrior) and the Justice for Paul Howell organization, without whom I would have been entirely ignorant about the Julius Jones case. So long as there remains credible opposition to partisan spin-doctors, the spread of clear truth remains possible.
These things having been acknowledged, I can now begin to expose the discrepancy between the criminal cases of Julius Jones and Kyle Rittenhouse and the (specifically progressive) news/popular media’s spin on these cases.
The Case of Julius Jones
Many people may have heard of Julius Jones through Viola Davis’s The Last Defense documentary series. In it, Jones is presented as an innocent black man framed by the corrupt, racist justice system of Edmond, Oklahoma and his former friend Christopher Jordan for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell. The documentary posits that Jordan was in fact the murderer, and that he threw the guiltless Jones under the bus in a secret plea deal with the Oklahoma court system. Jones was arrested despite being at his parents’ home the night of the murder. The racist jurors of the court then convicted Jones based on supposedly faulty testimony from Megan Howell Tobey, the murder victim’s sister and the only adult in the family to witness the crime, with Jones not even allowed to testify on his own behalf. Jones, an innocent man, now faces imminent execution, with the decision to commute his sentence laying in the hands of Governor Kevin Stitt. Since the documentary, Jones has received widespread support from progressives and celebrities nationwide, with Kim Kardashian visiting him in 2020, urging her fans to donate to his legal fund. Even some on the right, such as Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union, voiced support for Jones. It is clear that The Last Defense struck a chord with many who saw it, but there are a few problems…
First and foremost, this narrative is prima facie incoherent: how does it make sense that Jones was convicted due to systemic racism, but Christopher Jordan, who was also black, was allowed to walk free? But looking a little further into this case, it is clear to anyone that this documentary’s claims are egregiously manipulative at best, and downright false at worst. First, court documents reveal that Jones admitted multiple times that he was not at his parents’ house the night of the murder. These same documents reveal that Jones voluntarily waived his right to testify on his own behalf, as is typical in most defense cases. Second, multiple affidavits confirm that Christopher Jordan was not released in a plea deal with the state, but due to an update in operating procedure for prisoners of his type. Third, the testimony of Megan Howell Tobey as described in the documentary is both different and far more vague than her actual testimony: the documentary asserts that her description of the murderer matches that of Christopher Jordan, whereas her actual description excludes Jordan, as she testified to the murderer not having a cornrow hairstyle. Guess what kind of hair Jordan possessed at the time? A full list of these false claims and their corresponding rebuttals can be found on justiceforpaulhowell.com.
If you are still unconvinced, there is one clear, damning piece of evidence that indicates beyond any reasonable doubt that Jones was the murderer. Paul Howell was murdered by a man in a red bandanna, wielding a .25 caliber handgun. Julius Jones was arrested three days later. Laying in the attic space above his bedroom closet was a .25 caliber handgun, wrapped in a red bandanna. In 2017, Jones asserted in The Last Defense series that DNA testing of the bandanna would exonerate him. Jones stopped pressing his claims about the bandanna after a partial profile was constructed from court-ordered DNA testing, which just so happened to match Jones’s DNA and exclude Jordan’s. According to justiceforpaulhowell.com:
“The probability of randomly selecting an unrelated individual with the same DNA profile is approximately 1 in 1.3 billion in the US Caucasian population; 1 in 110 million in the US African American population; and 1 in 1 billion in the US Hispanic population.”
For reference, there were only 35 million African Americans in the U.S. in 1999. In short, Julius Jones wishes he had O.J. Simpson’s credibility. Since the documentary, Jones has shown himself to be unrepentant for his crimes, needing prompting in his clemency hearing to express sympathy for the Howell family, and even going so far as to make money from his time in the limelight through donations and clothing brands.
As foul as it is to defend a murderer such as this man, our justice system holds to Blackstone’s Ratio (better that ten guilty walk free than one innocent suffer punishment). It is therefore even worse to spread lies that insinuate the guilt of a clearly innocent man.
The Case of Kyle Rittenhouse
The commonly-understood story goes something like this: Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man, was unjustly shot seven times in the back by Kenosha police; local protests naturally emerged in response, which turned to minor rioting after dark; on the second day of protests, Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old with ties to white supremacy and homicidal tendencies, acquired an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle, crossed from Illinois to Wisconsin, and opened fire on a crowd of protestors, killing two and injuring one more. To those who believe this, Rittenhouse is yet another in a growing list of deranged white mass shooters.
Even a surface-level analysis of the case reveals that this narrative is flimsy.
Kyle Rittenhouse, despite having a clear capability to shoot many more people, only hit three. When this is pointed out, the narrative shifts towards the idea that Rittenhouse initiated the conflicts with the three protestors. For months, many media figures (e.g. Ana Kasparian) baselessly asserted that Rittenhouse began his “shooting spree” by chasing and then shooting a man named Joseph Rosenbaum. The prosecution’s case rests on this, because if it could be shown that Rittenhouse was defending himself against Rosenbaum, then the rest of his actions captured on camera were undoubtedly self-defense. The prosecution has a problem, though, because their ostensible “key piece of evidence” to prove Rittenhouse’s guilt in fact exculpates him.
Recently-revealed FBI drone footage shows that the first armed confrontation began when Joseph Rosenbaum ambushed Rittenhouse from behind a group of parked cars, whereupon Rittenhouse began to flee. Despite this, Rosenbaum attempted to grab Rittenhouse’s rifle multiple times, prompting Rittenhouse to shoot Rosenbaum, killing him in a clear-cut case of self-defense. Even if Rittenhouse had initiated the conflict, which it is now clear he did not, undeniable video evidence shows that he made every effort to remove himself from the situation, meaning that he was always justified in using self-defense.
The next two cases are therefore clear-cut: as Rittenhouse tripped while attempting to surrender to police, protestor Anthony Huber pursued and attempted to disarm him, striking Rittenhouse with his skateboard as the protestors can be heard shouting threatening messages. Rittenhouse then shot him once in fear for his life. Finally, Gaige Grosskreutz, a “medic” at the scene, was shot in the bicep after, by his own admission, pointing his illegally-owned handgun at Rittenhouse.
The facts speak for themselves. Though one could argue that he made a mistake in being there, Rittenhouse exemplified discipline and responsibility as best he could in a dangerous and chaotic situation. Still, left-wing news outlets could not keep the record straight.
Take Christina Maxouris of CNN’s near-hagiographic description of the three whom Rittenhouse shot, which omits how each of them attacked Rittenhouse. Take the Washington Post and The Young Turks questioning the presiding judge’s credibility for excoriating the prosecution’s unethical conduct (questioning Rittenhouse’s right to plead the 5th and making use of unadmitted evidence to impeach the defendant’s character, for instance), or just recently making an off-color joke. Take the Twitter news headline (taken from Washington Post) highlighting Grosskreutz “fearing for his own life” during his encounter with Rittenhouse as the most important part of his testimony, as opposed to the more significant admission of him pointing his own gun at Rittenhouse.
The case of Kyle Rittenhouse is reminiscent of the infamous January 2019 Lincoln Memorial incident, where a confrontation took place between March for Life protestors from Covington Catholic High School and the Indigenous Peoples March, with Nathan Phillips of the latter group banging his drums in face of the bemused student Nicholas Sandmann. A viral picture circulated with the false narrative of Sandmann and his racist white male cohort bullying Phillips, causing a brief mass-media moral panic against him. Of course, the story was quickly debunked, with Sandmann receiving out-of-court settlements with CNN and The Washington Post, as well as broad recognition that the narrative was reported in a reactionary and lazy manner. With Rittenhouse, however, progressive mass media doubles down instead of retracts, making every effort to obfuscate the clear truth of the case.
The Poison of Lies
It’s clear that these media outlets have a narrative to push, and they won’t let silly things like “truth” get in their way. Though Julius Jones is undeniably a cold-blooded murderer, many believe that he is an innocent man condemned by the system. Though Rittenhouse would doubtlessly be declared innocent in any court of law, he will nevertheless be condemned in the court of public opinion.
It’s bad enough that the progressive mass media’s manipulation of these events corrodes public trust. As long as this continues, much of American society will elect to solely consume media that confirms their priors, further dividing the nation into a postmodern quagmire of fractured narratives. It’s made worse, however, by the fact that collective beliefs result in collective actions, often violent, when emotions run high enough. Assuming Rittenhouse is found not guilty and Jones’s appeal for clemency is denied by Governor Stitt, this will merely confirm many leftists’ priors that America remains systemically racist to its core, and that riots and political violence will be necessary to rectify it. Every drop of blood spilled in the name of this cause will stain the hands of these spin-doctors, as well as their activist adherents who unquestioningly accept any narrative, no matter how absurd.
Perhaps one day these narrative bubbles will burst, and plain facts will not be as twisted for ideological ends like they are now. That can only be achieved, however, through the difficult labor of scratching beneath the surface: consulting primary sources and talking with others outside your own bubble would be a start. As tribal as we are, strong barriers can weaken in pursuit of a common goal. Truth can only be revealed when we admit that it exists beyond what we know.
UPDATES ON THE CASES:
Kyle Rittenhouse has been acquitted on all charges – https://abcnews.go.com/US/jury-reaches-verdict-kyle-rittenhouse-homicide-trial/story?id=81108654…
Julius Jones has had his sentence commuted to life without possibility of parole – https://apnews.com/article/executions-oklahoma-julius-jones-commutation-1e212e0db47f598ccb9c97fd611df929…
CORRECTION (1/26/2022): Long overdue, a previous version of this article falsely asserted that Kyle Rittenhouse had joined the “Kenosha Guards” militia. This updated article has removed all references to that claim. AUTHOR’S NOTE: This claim was based off of then-recent reporting from CNN and The New York Times. In parroting that claim, I had ironically done the very thing I was denouncing, and for that I extend my sincere apologies.