Judge begins Rittenhouse trial with anecdotes and lectures


Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder addresses the jury at the start of jury selection on the first day of Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial in Kenosha, Wis. On Monday, November 1, 2021. Rittenhouse is charged with killing two people and injured a third during a demonstration against police brutality in Kenosha last year. (Mark Hertzberg / Pool Photo via AP)


The judge presiding over Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial opened jury selection Monday with a series of “Jeopardy!” Questions, assured potential jurors he did not have COVID-19 and returned to the issue. fall of the Roman Empire to emphasize the seriousness of their duty.

Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder made the courtroom laugh – and cringe on social media – as he dotted potential jurors with trivial questions and offered commentary on some . When the answer to one was the movie “Psycho,” Schroeder, 75, joked, “You’ve heard of it.”

A potential juror told Schroeder he has nasal surgery scheduled in 10 days. The judge asked him, “What would you rather do, be here with me or have your nose operated on?” The man replied, “I’ll be honest with you, I’m not looking forward to it.” The judge laughed and said he would take it into consideration.

The tenor of Monday’s hearing did not surprise a lawyer who appeared before Schroeder.

Michael Cicchini, a Kenosha-based defense attorney, said the start of jury selection can be “a logistical nightmare”. Lawyers are given seating maps and other documents as jurors are brought in, and they need time to organize themselves.

Schroeder is presiding over one of the biggest trials of his career. Rittenhouse, 18, of Antioch, Illinois, shot dead three people during a protest against police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020. The protests began after a white policeman shot Jacob Blake, who is black, in the back during a domestic disturbance. Blake had fought with officers and had a knife; the county attorney subsequently refused to charge the officer.

Rittenhouse said he traveled to Kenosha to protect businesses from looting and arson. Two of the men he shot, Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, died of their injuries. Rittenhouse also shot and injured a third man, Gaige Grosskreutz.

Rittenhouse claims he fired in self-defense and that the country’s Tories have rallied behind him, portraying him as a bulwark against chaotic protesters and a symbol of gun rights. Others, including liberals and activists, present him as a national terrorist, claiming that he has made an unstable situation worse by showing up with a gun.

Previously, Schroeder’s most high-profile case was the 2008 homicide trial against Mark Jensen, accused of poisoning and suffocating his wife. Jensen was convicted, but appeals courts and the state Supreme Court ruled that Schroeder falsely admitted as evidence a letter Jensen’s wife gave to a neighbor saying that if anything happened to her, Jensen would be responsible. A new trial is scheduled for 2022.

In 2018, Schroeder sentenced a woman convicted of shoplifting to tell the manager of any store she entered that she was under surveillance for theft, saying embarrassment can deter crime. A state appeals court dismissed this sentence.

Schroeder came under scrutiny last week when he told lawyers that Rosenbaum, Huber and Grosskreutz could not be cited in court as victims, calling the word “charged”. But he rejected a prosecution’s request to block any reference to them as “rioters,” “looters” or “arsonists,” saying the defense can do so if supported by evidence.

On Monday, Schroeder had a coughing fit and then reassured potential jurors that he had been vaccinated three times against COVID-19. He also apologized for being disorganized, saying jury selection does not usually take place on Monday mornings.

Schroeder ultimately began jury selection with a story about the Vietnam War, comparing jury duty to writing, saying no one would be excused for minor reasons. He then called for a round of applause for all the veterans present.

Cicchini said Schroeder traditionally gave short speeches on the history of trials to make jurors understand the importance of their task. On Monday, he referred to the fall of Rome when explaining the evolution of the system.

“When Rome fell, the world changed dramatically,” the judge said, before launching into more history of how cases were decided over 2,000 years ago. He spoke of priests blessing trials in which defendants had to get their hands on hot coals or boiling water – if they “didn’t fare too badly” it was a sign from God to their innocence.

Schroeder also warned that media coverage of the case may have misled would-be jurors.

“This case has become very political,” he said. “He’s been involved in politics the last election year.… You can go out now and read stuff from all political angles on this matter, most of which is written by people who don’t know anything. say they don’t know anything. I mean they don’t know what you’re going to know: those of you who are selected for this jury, who are going to hear for yourself the real evidence in this case. “


This story has been corrected to add the missing word “You have” to the judge’s quote on the movie “Psycho”.


Find full AP coverage of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial at: https://apnews.com/hub/kyle-rittenhouse

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