The phone belonging to the judge presiding over the closely watched double homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse rang at least twice during the trial with Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” as his ringtone.
The song has been heavily used at rallies headlined by former President Donald Trump, and singer Lee Greenwood performed the song at his inauguration.
As the trial was returning from lunch on Wednesday, the Rittenhouse defence team was speaking when Judge Bruce Schroeder’s phone rang to the tune of the patriotic anthem.
The phone rang again on Friday as prosecutors and defence attorneys discussed adding lesser charges to Mr Rittenhouse’s case. The jury was not present.
The Illinois teenager is facing five charges including homicide and minor in possession of a weapon for shooting dead Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and injuring Gauge Grosskreutz in the aftermath of protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin in August 2020. He could be sentenced to a maximum of life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge against him.
“’God Bless the USA’ is the opening song played at every Trump rally. Lee Greenwood literally sang it at Trump’s inauguration,” Mikel Jollett tweeted.
“They will make a movie about this and no one will believe it’s based on actual events,” one Twitter user added.
Judge Schroeder of the trial that the prosecutors cannot refer to the two people Mr Rittenhouse stands accused of killing as “victims”.
The judge decided last month that the term was too “loaded”, but that Mr Rittenhouse’s legal team can use words such as “rioters” and “looters” to refer to the men who were shot if they could produce evidence to back up the designations.
“If more than one of these people were engaged in arson, rioting or looting, then I’m not going to tell the defence they can’t call them that,” the judge said during a pre-trial hearing.
“The word ‘victim’ is a loaded, loaded word. And I think ‘alleged victim’ is a cousin to it,” he added. Rulings like this aren’t uncommon in trials deciding cases of self-defence, The Chicago Tribune reported.
Earlier during Wednesday’s trial, Mr Rittenhouse walked through the night of the shootings and broke down in tears as he described fearing for his life when confronted by protesters.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I defended myself,” he said.
Under cross-examination, Mr Rittenhouse acknowledged that it was illegal for him to carry AR-15 rifle he used in the shootings and said he had a friend purchase it for him because: “I thought it looked cool.”
On Wednesday, prosecutor Thomas Binger sought to highlight Mr Rittenhouse’s lack of experience with AR-15s but questioned what he knows about the “full metal jacket” rounds used in the shooting.
Tensions boiled over as Judge Schroeder admonished the prosecution for referencing a video that had been excluded from evidence at a pretrial hearing.
Mr Rittenhouse’s attorneys sought a mistrial with prejudice due to what they called “prosecutorial misconduct”. The defence accused prosecutors of violating Mr Rittenhouse’s rights by mentioning his silence in the wake the shootings and by referencing video evidence that was previously deemed inadmissible.
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