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Kyle Rittenhouse Trial Judge Asks Jury to Applaud Defense Witness

After a chaotic day in court on Wednesday, the judge in Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial encouraged the courtroom, including the jury, to applaud for a defense witness because he was a veteran.

The 18-year-old Rittenhouse is charged with homicide and attempted homicide, among other charges, for killing two people and seriously injuring a third when he brought an AR-15 to a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during the summer of 2020.

Judge Bruce Schroeder has a reputation for being sympathetic to the defense in cases before him, attorneys who appeared before him told The Washington Post. Schroeder has been criticized for some of his decisions in the Rittenhouse case, including his choice to block prosecutors from referring to the people Rittenhouse killed as “victims.” Schroeder said victim was a “loaded” term and suggested “rioters,” “looters,” or “arsonists,” instead, as long as the defense could produce evidence justifying the use of those words.

In the latest incident, Schroeder on Thursday asked the crowd gathered in the courtroom to identify themselves if they were a veteran because it was Veterans Day. “I just want to observe that it’s Veterans Day and, any veterans in the room? On the jury or anywhere else?” Schroeder asked.

When the court responded with silence, Schroeder said, “Well, that’s unusual not to have at least somebody in here, but Dr. Black is, what branch?”

Schroeder was referring to the next witness to be called by Rittenhouse’s defense team, John Black, who is a use-of-force expert. Black, who was about to take the stand, responded to Schroeder that he had served in the Army.

“OK, and I think we can give a round of applause to the people who have served our country,” the judge said, referring to Black, who was the only one to come forward. People in the courtroom applauded Black, including the judge. Members of the jury joined in the applause as well, Michael Tarm of the  Associated Press reported.

Once Black took the stand, Rittenhouse’s defense attorney asked him to recite some of the details of his Army service. Black said he served for “thirty years” and advanced to the “rank of sergeant major” before his retirement.

Another questionable decision by Schroeder in the case was related to his handling of video evidence presented to the jury. The jury was forced to view a video of the protest scene “in miniature,” and not a larger size because Rittenhouse’s defense lawyer claimed, without evidence, that zooming in on a video displayed on an Apple device distorts the footage using “artificial intelligence.” Schroeder bought that argument and then gave the prosecution only 20 minutes to find an expert to refute it, which they did not produce.

Schroeder also berated the lead prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, repeatedly on Wednesday. That same day, we learned that he appears to use a patriotic anthem played by former President Trump at rallies as his mobile ringtone.

The August 2020 protest where Rittenhouse fired his weapon was in response to the police shooting Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, seven times in the back. Rittenhouse maintained in testimony Wednesday that he brought the gun to the event to “protect myself.” In a video from the night of the shooting, Rittenhouse told a camera he came to “protect” a local business and “help people.”

Later in the trial on Wednesday, Schroeder made an outlandish offhand remark when declaring what time the court would break for lunch. “I hope the Asian food isn’t coming. … isn’t on one of those boats in Long Beach Harbor,” he said.

The trial is reaching its final days, and Schroeder has said he expects arguments to conclude and jury deliberations to begin early next week.

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