Rittenhouse trial: Judge scolds prosecutor over cross-examination in heated exchange
Circuit Court Judge Bruce E. Schroeder raises his voice to the prosecution while reprimanding them over their line of questioning pertaining to Kyle Rittenhouse’s gun use and his knowledge of the law as it pertained to his use of the gun.
The Wisconsin judge overseeing the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse tore into a prosecutor Wednesday during a testy exchange over his cross-examination of the teenager and questions over his silence after his arrest and his protection of private property.
Judge Bruce Schroeder scolded Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger after he asked Rittenhouse whether he knew the use of deadly force can not be used to protect property. Schroeder accused Binger of trying to improperly introduce testimony that he said earlier he wasn’t inclined to include.
“I was astonished when you began your examination by commenting on the defendant’s post-arrest silence. 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 told Binger with the jury out of the courtroom. “You know very well that an attorney can’t go into these types of areas when the judge has already ruled without asking outside the presence of the jury to do so. So don’t give me that. That’s number one.”
Judge Bruce Schroeder watches conduct of attorneys closely as Kyle Rittenhouse testifies during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Wednesday. (Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)
“Number two. This is propensity evidence. I said at the time that I made my ruling and I’ll repeat again now for you,” the judge added. “I see no similarity between talking about wishing you had your AR gun, which you don’t have, so that you can take … fire fire rounds with these thought-to-be shoplifters and the incidence in these cases.”
The exchange came days into the trial in which Rittenhouse faces two murder charges and a charge of attempted murder that stemmed from riots in Kenosha last year. Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, fatally shot Anthony Huber, 26, and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, now 27, with an AK-style semi-automatic weapon.
He claimed he was protecting property after rioters set fires and looted businesses the night before. Grosskreutz testified for the prosecution this week that he was pointing his gun at Rittenhouse when the teen opened fire at him.
Schroeder, 75, who is overseeing the highly-publicized proceeding, has a reputation for being stern and handing down tough sentences. In 2018, he sentenced a woman convicted of shoplifting to inform managers of every store she entered that she was on supervision for theft.
Judge Bruce Schroeder, right, reprimands Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, left, in his conduct in line of questioning while cross-examining Kyle Rittenhouse during the trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse on Wednesday.
(Sean Krajacic-Pool/Getty Images)
He told the woman that “embarrassment does have a valuable place in deterring criminality.” An appeals court eventually threw out the sentence.
Schroeder is the longest-serving active-circuit judge in Wisconsin. He was appointed as a Kenosha County Circuit Court judge in 1983 by Democratic Gov. Anthony Earl. He was subsequently elected for a full term a year later and was most recently re-elected last year.
He has run unopposed in the last three elections.
Among his other high-profile cases include the murder trial of Mark Jensen, who is accused of poisoning his wife with antifreeze and smothering her in their garage more than two decades ago. Appellate courts and the state Supreme Court said he erred by admitting as evidence a letter Jensen’s wife gave to a neighbor before her death in which she said her husband would be responsible if anything happened to her.
A new trial is slated for next year.
Kyle Rittenhouse breaks down on the stand as he testifies about his encounter with the late Joseph Rosenbaum during his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and wounding a third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha, last year. (Mark Hertzberg /Pool Photo via AP)
Before becoming a judge, Schroeder served as the Kenosha County District Attorney from 1972-77 and assistant district attorney from 1971-72. He was a private practice attorney from 1977 until his appointment to the bench.
Before the Rittenhouse trial began, the judge ruled that attorneys could not refer to Huber and Rosenbaum as victims. He did rule that defense lawyers could refer to them as looters, arsonists, or rioters. The ruling caused a rift.
“He’s protective of the right to present a defense, the right to confrontation. He’s that way for all defendants, regardless of the case,” Kenosha-based defense attorney Michael Cicchini said. “The judge in my opinion is not swayed by or interested in politics,” Cicchini said. “He’ll apply the rules even-handedly without any influence from the media.”
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger argues his line of questioning with Judge Bruce Schroeder during Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Wednesday.
(Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool)
Rittenhouse took the witness stand Wednesday where he sobbed and said he was under attack. At one point, Schroeder declared a break.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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