As jury deliberations continue in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, the decisions made by Kenosha, Wisconsin, Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder continue to be called into action.
Schroeder and lawyers on both sides have debated over the language of a multitude of jury instructions on six criminal charges that Rittenhouse had originally faced.
The judge dismissed the least serious of the charges, a misdemeanor charge of illegally possessing a dangerous weapon as a minor.
As an open carry state, Wisconsin allows for adults to legally carry firearms openly but state law prohibits minors from possessing firearms except in limited circumstances.
Schroeder sided with Rittenhouse’s defense lawyers, who argued that the language of the state law does not prohibit a 17-year-old from carrying a rifle with a long barrel, as prosecutors had contended.
However, the judge told jurors to weigh less serious charges along with the most serious counts they have been asked to consider, viewed as a win for the prosecution. Giving jurors instructions on lesser charges can be significant, legal experts say, because the lesser charges offer jurors a path to compromise if they disagree on the most serious offenses.
But on Monday, Nov. 15, after both sides rested last week and with the case moving into the hands of the jury, Schroeder once again broke with the conventional and allowed Rittenhouse to select the 12 jurors who will decide his fate.
Rittenhouse, who faces five charges stemming from his shooting and killing two men and injuring another in the aftermath of the 2020 police assault on Jacob Blake in Kenosha, placed slips of paper into a raffle drum with the numbers of each of the 18 jurors who sat through the two-week trial.
Schroeder asked that court officials place the drum in front of the 18-year-old defendant to carry out the process.
“I’ve never seen a judge allow a defendant to draw those names,” Julius Kim, a former Milwaukee County prosecutor, declared.
While it’s not unusual to select alternates by lot, Kim responded to Judge Schroeder’s latest questionable actions and rulings that have dominated the trial from the onset.
“I think the judge’s thinking here is it’s the defendant’s trial and the defendant pulling those names himself can be reassured it’s done fairly because it’s he himself who’s pulling the names,” Kim reasoned.
Others weren’t willing to grant Judge Schroeder that benefit.
“It’s just another way for this judge to show what he’s shown throughout, which is favoritism toward this defendant – toward Kyle Rittenhouse,” Melissa Bey, a Kenosha resident who has gathered regularly with others outside the courthouse during the trial.
“The judge should have been removed long ago. This just proves why he should have been removed,” Bey insisted.
Judge Schroeder has openly scolded the prosecution and ruled that those shot and killed by Rittenhouse couldn’t be called “victims” but instead “looters,” “rioters,” or “arsonists.”
Many believe he’s acted almost like a parental figure to Rittenhouse, whose mother drove him across state lines after the Aug. 23, 2020, police shooting of Blake. Then, armed with an AK-47-style rifle, Rittenhouse opened fire on demonstrators he said had threatened his life.
“It’s not up for Mr. Rittenhouse to be the judge, the jury and eventually the executioner,” Assistant District Attorney James Kraus told the jury. “The only imminent threat that night was Mr. Rittenhouse.”