Judge Schroeder Admonishes Rittenhouse Trial Prosecution

Judge Schroeder Admonishes Rittenhouse Trial Prosecution Judge Schroeder Admonishes Rittenhouse Trial Prosecution

Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder, who is presiding over the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, examines photographs taken by freelance photographer Nathan DuBruin on Aug. 25, 2020, the night of the unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (Mark Hertzberg /Pool Photo via AP)

By Eric Mack | Wednesday, 10 November 2021 08:56 PM

The high-profile Kyle Rittenhouse trial, reaching a crescendo with his own testimony Wednesday, has put Kenosha County, Wisconsin, Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder in the national spotlight — not only for his shouting down Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, but also his handling of prosecutorial missteps.

The defense has requested a mistrial in the trial of Rittenhouse, who shot three people, killing two, on Aug. 25, 2020. Rittenhouse maintains that he shot those people in self-defense.

The defense is asking that the case be dismissed with prejudice, which would mean that prosecutors could not bring these charges again.

That Rittenhouse testified on his own behalf was unusual enough, but instead of the defendant facing pointed questions from prosecutors in cross-examination, it was the prosecutor facing the judge's wrath.

"I was astonished when you began your examination by commenting on the defendant's post-arrest silence," Schroeder, 75, told Binger with the jury out of the courtroom. "That's basic law. It's been basic law in this country for 40 years, 50 years. I have no idea why you would do something like that."

Schroeder said he would consider the defense's motion for a mistrial later.

"You can never, never comment on the fact that the defendant did not say something," Chicago-based defense attorney and former federal prosecutor Phil Turner told The Associated Press. "He or she has a Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves. You don't go near it as a prosecutor. Never."

Schroeder sent the jury out of the courtroom several times Wednesday to admonish the prosecution team, including for bringing up lines of questioning the judge had previously ruled not permissible at a pretrial hearing.

"Don't get brazen with me!" Schroeder warned Binger.

Still, Schroeder appears unlikely to grant a mistrial with prejudice, having told the jury at the end of the day Wednesday that he expected the case to conclude early next week.

The judge has become a central figure in this trial, which was originally about whether Rittenhouse, 17, acted appropriately in his admitted use of deadly force to "stop the threat" against him by the three men he shot during the protests in Kenosha of the Jacob Blake shooting in August 2020.

"I'd say he [Schroeder] is more pro-defense than pro-prosecution in trial," Chris Rose, a Kenosha criminal defense lawyer who has appeared before Schroeder "hundreds of times," told The Washington Post. "The rulings he has made so far are consistent with what he has done in the past."

Schroeder is the longest-serving active circuit judge in Wisconsin. He was appointed to the bench in 1983 by Democratic Gov. Anthony Earl, according to The Associated Press.

Schroeder's reputation preceded his blowup at the prosecutors, with some saying that his handling of the case would be favorable to the defense.

"I think Kyle Rittenhouse is going to get off," Justine Tidwell, 25, told the Post. "They gave the case to the worst judge in town."