Wisconsin judge faces ‘nationwide scrutiny’ as Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial winds down: report

Wisconsin judge faces ‘nationwide scrutiny’ as Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial winds down: report
Judge Bruce E. Schroeder, screenshot
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In Kenosha, Wisconsin, 75-year-old Bruce E. Schroeder is the judge in the trial of 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse — who is facing homicide and attempted homicide charges after shooting three demonstrators (two of them fatally) during an anti-police brutality protest in August 2020. And Schroeder, according to Washington Post reporter Scott Wilson, is drawing more and more "national scrutiny" as the trial comes to an end.

The 2020 summer was what was often described as a "long hot summer" during the unrest of the 1960s, meaning that it was full of political tensions and angry protests. Some older activists commented that they felt like they were reliving the volatility of 1967 and 1968, and the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020 reopened old wounds. In Kenosha, the unrest grew when Jacob S. Blake, a young Black man, was injured by a White police officer, Rusten Sheskey, on August 23, 2020. Blake, unlike Floyd, was not killed, but he was shot and left paralyzed.

The three protesters Rittenhouse shot in Kenosha were Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz, who is the only one who survived and has testified at Rittenhouse's trial. Rittenhouse has maintained that he acted in self-defense, while his critics see him as a far-right extremist and a vigilante who appointed himself judge, jury and executioner.

Activists who have been following the trial have been analyzing Schroeder. Wilson quotes Justin Blake, Jacob Blake's uncle, as saying, "It seems like he's aiming to let this man out of this courthouse scot-free, and we're not going to let that happen. If it happens, we're not going to be quiet about it."

According to Wilson, Schroeder has a reputation for giving defendants the benefit of the doubt. Michael Cicchini, a Kenosha-based criminal defense attorney, told the Post, "For a jury trial, if you get him, you are happy as a defense attorney."

Wilson notes, "The case draws together some of the most volatile elements of America's examination of race and criminal justice: White vigilantism, gun control and racial justice. In the home stretch of a nearly four-decade career on the bench, Schroeder's sometimes unorthodox rules are now receiving nationwide scrutiny."

During the trial, Wilson observes, Schroeder has ordered the prosecution to refrain from describing Rosenbaum, Huber or Grosskreutz as "victims."

Cicchini told the Post, "That's been a rule in his courtroom since Day One: Whether the person is a victim is the very thing the prosecution has to prove."

Schroeder has also forbidden prosecutors from mentioning alleged links between Rittenhouse and the Proud Boys, one of the extremist far-right groups that was involved in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building.

Chris Rose, a Kenosha-based criminal defense attorney who has had extensive dealings with Schroeder, told the Post, "I'd say he is more pro-defense than pro-prosecution in trial." And Rose added that "the rulings" Schroeder "has made so far" in Rittenhouse's trial "are consistent with what he has done in the past."

Justine Tidwell, a 25-year-old African-American woman who lives in Kenosha, is highly critical of Schroeder, telling the Post, "I think Kyle Rittenhouse is going to get off. They gave the case to the worst judge in town."

Here are some comments that Twitter users have posted in response to Wilson's reporting on Schroeder:

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