The unusual display came as the jury conducted its second day of deliberations on five felony charges against Mr Rittenhouse, who shot three people – two fatally – during a night of racial unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020.
Judge Bruce Schroeder explained the rules for jurors to review video evidence in the court before giving the media a chance to clear out – at which point he offered to “play some music” to pass the time.
As Mr Rittenhouse and his three defence attorneys stood at their desk and jurors took their seats, Judge Schroeder sang a few lines of Frank Sinatra’s ballad “Autumn Leaves” a capella.
Mr Rittenhouse and his lawyers appeared amused by the brief show, which drew criticism from Twitter users questioning whether the judge is taking his job seriously.
It follows a string of controversial comments by Judge Schroeder, who has subsequently faced calls for removal from the case.
Earlier in Wednesday’s proceedings, the judge sparked outcry on Twitter when he referred to a juror in a previous trial as “a Black”.
He made that remark 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 a court 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.
Judge Schroeder also drew attention multiple times last week, including when his phone rang three times with with Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” as his ringtone, when he made an off-colour joke about “Asian food”, and when he was shown reading a holiday cookie catalogue behind the bench.
In more serious moments, critics say the judge has shown bias toward the defence by repeatedly admonishing the prosecution.
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