Wisconsin Judge Bruce Schroeder defended his choice to have Kyle Rittenhouse reach into a metal container and randomly select which jurors will deliberate in his homicide trial, claiming Wednesday he’s used this unusual method since an “incident” roughly two decades ago — drawing attention to Schroeder yet again as the country awaits a verdict for Rittenhouse.
Judge Bruce Schroeder gives jury instructions during Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial at the Kenosha County … [+] Courthouse on November 15, 2021.
Some 18 jurors listened to the entire trial, but before they began deliberations Tuesday, the court asked Rittenhouse to pull six random numbers from a raffle-style tumbler to determine which six jurors will serve as alternates rather than deciding the case.
Legal experts told the Associated Press and NBC News this method of selecting the 12 jurors who will participate in deliberations is unusual but not necessarily problematic.
Schroeder admitted Wednesday he’s not sure if many other judges ask defendants to choose the numbers for alternate jurors themselves, but he called it an “almost universal” policy he’s used in his courtroom for around 20 years.
He says he introduced this method after a court clerk randomly eliminated the only Black juror from a high-profile trial of a Black defendant, which he called “a bad optic.”
“I think people feel better when they have control,” Schroeder said. “I’d never had a complaint about it before.”
Schroeder has drawn attention and controversy in the past. Before the trial started, he barred lawyers from referring to the three men shot by Rittenhouse last year as “victims,” calling it a loaded term. He also said Rittenhouse’s attorneys can use words like “looters” and “rioters” to describe the deceased in closing arguments, as long as they offer proof they were engaged in those activities. The judge defended this ruling Wednesday, arguing the word “victim” amounted to “pre-judging what the jury is here to determine, as to whether there’s a victim and whether there was a crime committed.” Last week, Schroeder admonished prosecutors when Rittenhouse took the stand, claiming one of the prosecutors referenced Rittenhouse’s right to remain silent and hinted at a piece of evidence Schroeder had previously excluded. And on Veterans’ Day, the judge asked people in the courtroom to clap for any veterans who were present, which led to a defense witness enjoying a round of applause in front of jurors.
Schroeder is 75 years old, and is the longest-serving circuit judge in Wisconsin. He’s developed a reputation for strict and sometimes eclectic courtroom procedures, and some local lawyers told the Washington Post he tends to be skeptical of prosecutors. Kenosha defense lawyer Michael Cicchini told the Post “if you get him, you are happy as a defense attorney,” adding that Schroeder usually bans the word “victim” in his courtroom.
Schroeder said Wednesday some people who have questioned his courtroom procedures “want to undermine the result of the trial.” Schroder has offered gripes about coverage of the high-profile trial in the past: Earlier this month, he called some media commentary “totally bizarre” and complained about CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Rittenhouse was charged with killing two men and injuring a third with an AR15-style rifle during a tense protest last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse claims he traveled to Kenosha — which faced protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake last summer — to defend a business, and insists he shot the men because he was under attack, but prosecutors have cast Rittenhouse as a vigilante who can’t claim self-defense because he helped provoke the violence. The case has become a political lightning rod, with conservatives like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) defending Rittenhouse while critics on the left like Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) push to “Lock up Kyle Rittenhouse and throw away the key.”
Jurors began deliberating on Rittenhouse’s fate Tuesday morning. He was charged with five counts, including first-degree intentional homicide and reckless homicide.
Explainer: How the Rittenhouse jury was narrowed (Associated Press)
Judge In Rittenhouse Case Slammed With Accusations Of Bias—Here’s Why (Forbes)
Factbox: ‘Don’t get brazen with me’: Who is the judge in the Rittenhouse murder trial? (Reuters)

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