Reported by PHIL SHIVER | November 02, 2021
The judge presiding over the highly anticipated Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial recently criticized what he called a “vast amount” of “irresponsible and sloppy journalism” covering the events surrounding the case.
While speaking with potential jurors during the jury selection process on Monday, Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder said that those selected for the task may need to disregard much of what they have heard in the media about the case.
“This case has become very political. It was involved in the politics of the last election year,” Schroeder said in the court session, adding, “To this day, you can go out and read things from all across the political spectrum about this case, most of which is written by people who know nothing.”
“The price we pay for having a free press is a lot of irresponsible and sloppy journalism,” he continued, adding that his charge “is not an attack on the media” but a reality check for potential jurors about the need for a fair and impartial trial.
Schroeder said that he has read some things about the case that have been “perfect,” but noted that most of the reporting has either been “sloppy” or “deliberately biased.”
“It can be frightening,” he added while urging jury candidates to abandon their presuppositions and focus solely on the evidence presented at trial. He reminded them that the right to a fair trial is an important right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
What’s the background?
The news comes only days after Schroeder ruled that the men Rittenhouse, 18, fatally shot or wounded on Aug. 25, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, can’t be referred to as “victims” by prosecutors — but can be called “rioters” and “looters.”
Rittenhouse — then 17 — allegedly took a gun to riots in the city in order to defend local businesses against looting and ransacking in the wake of a white police officer’s shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man. During the mayhem, Rittenhouse shot three men, killing two. Rittenhouse was charged with multiple felonies, including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree reckless homicide, and first-degree reckless endangering safety. If convicted, he could serve a mandatory life sentence in prison.
Rittenhouse’s defense team has insisted he was acting in self-defense, and videos of the shootings from that night appear to back up his claims. He later told reporters he doesn’t regret taking a gun to protests on the night of the shootings, saying he “would’ve died” if he hadn’t.
By Monday evening, 20 jurors had been selected, and now the trial is set to be heard.
NOVEMBER 2, 2021 | By Eddie Scarry
Kenosha County, Wis., Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder has a fanciful idea: That the trial he’s overseeing that includes murder charges against 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse can be removed from politics. He said so on Monday during jury selection. “We don’t want to fall into the trap,” he said, “that many in the media have, a large percentage of the media, and discuss this as a political trial or that there are bigger factors at stake in this trial.”
How naive. Of course this is a trial of political consequence and of course there are bigger factors at stake. The potential jurors know it, and that’s why during selection several of them expressed concern that their city or they personally might be the targets of rioting or harassment, regardless of the verdict the jury renders. All of the potential jurors are kept anonymous until after the trial is over but here’s a sample of what some of them said during selection:
—One said that no matter the verdict, “half the country will be up in arms about it.”
— Another said, “I’m more afraid of our community and the outsiders of our community that are coming in… It just brings us back to August (2020).” She also said she was “potentially” afraid of reliving riots depending on the verdict.
— A third said it was “scary” to be on a case like this one, specifically citing “riots” and wondering aloud, “Am I gonna get home safe?”
Those are legitimate concerns. We saw what happened earlier this year in Minneapolis, when businesses and restaurants boarded up their storefronts in anticipation of a possible acquittal of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who ultimately was convicted of killing George Floyd. If things don’t go a certain way in politically charged trials like that, despite evidence leading a deliberate jury to the opposite conclusion, well, that might very well mean more rioting, looting, arson, and violence. Potential jurors in the Rittenhouse trial received the message loud and clear that this isn’t just a murder trial. This is about the broader question of whether some types of political violence are acceptable, even necessary.
Rittenhouse is charged with the murder of two men and the attempted murder of a third. All relevant parties are white (sadly robbing the media of a beloved racially charged narrative) and it isn’t disputed that each of them had been chasing the teen and attempting to apprehend his weapon. All of it was in the context of several nights of destructive rioting in Kenosha, which resulted in a total of $50 million in damages to the city. The mayhem was sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man who was wanted for violating a restraining order stemming from claims he had sexually assaulted a woman. Blake is on video resisting his arrest and defying police orders by moving to enter his vehicle as they tried to apprehend him.
The city went up in flames and the national media to this day characterize the chaos as a “Black Lives Matter march” because they, along with leaders in the Democratic Party, believe all of it was justified.
Rittenhouse may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but that’s not a crime and it’s not what he’s on trial for. He’s on trial for shooting men who pursued him and made moves to grab his gun, something that is seen on video, testified by at least one witness, and written out in the state’s own complaint against Rittenhouse.
A jury will inevitably render its verdict, but contrary to what the judge says, there’s no way around it— this is a political trial and that should scare the jurors.