The judge overseeing Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial has once again come under scrutiny after he referred to a juror in a previous case he presided over as “a Black”.
Judge Bruce Schroeder made the remark on Wednesday when explaining his decision to allow Mr Rittenhouse to pick the names of the six jurors who would not be joining the final jury of 12.
In a rambling explanation, Judge Schroeder said the last time he allowed a court clerk to pick names was about two decades ago in a trial with a Black defendant.
He said there “a bad optic” after clerk chose “a Black, the Black, the only Black” in the jury pool.
“There were 13 jurors, one of whom was Black. And when the clerk, the government official, drew the name out of the tumbler, it was a Black, the Black, the only Black. There was nothing wrong with it, it was all OK, but what do they talk about – optics, nowadays … That was a bad optic, I thought,” he said.
“I think people feel better when they have control, so ever since that case I’ve had an almost universal policy of having the defendant do the picks.”
Twitter users quickly seized on the comments, saying they show the judge’s bias.
It marked the latest criticism of the judge’s behaviour during the trial, after he made an off-colour joke about “Asian food” during last week’s proceedings.
Also on Wednesday, Judge Schroeder vilified media coverage of the trial and said he will think twice about allowing live-streaming in future high-profile cases.
“Some of the things that have been said ... these are five very reputable attorneys that I’ve practised with for years, and I think it’s shameful, some of the things that are being done to these people,” he said.
“When I talked about problems with the media when this trial started, we’re there in part because of grossly irresponsible handling of what comes out of this trial.”
The judge added: “I will tell you this: I’m going to think long and hard about live television of a trial again next time.
“I don’t know, I’ve always been a firm believer in it because I think people should be able to see what’s going on, but when I see what’s being done it’s really frightening. Frightening is the word.”
He went on to explain his rule forbidding the use of the term “victims” to describe the men shot by Mr Rittenhouse, saying it unfairly implies that a crime has been committed.
“How would you like to be put on trial for a crime, and the judge introduced the case to the jury by introducing you as the ‘defendant’, and the person who is accusing you as the ‘victim’?” he asked.
“Is it so difficult to just use the term ‘complaining witnesses’? Instead of prejudging what the jury is here to determine as to whether there is a victim and whether there was a crime committed?”