KENOSHA, Wis. — The judge in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial went on a prolonged rant against media criticism of the case Wednesday, saying he has followed the law and any assertions otherwise could be detrimental to the community.
Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder began his unusual soliloquy by referencing a recent media report that called the case “the most divisive trial in the country.” Schroeder, the longest-serving circuit judge in Wisconsin, has frequently criticized the media during the case, but he rarely acknowledges the trial’s larger significance.
“Anything that undermines public confidence in what happens here is very important,” Schroeder said. “It’s important for this town. It’s important for this country to have people have confidence in the result of this trial. Whatever it is — and I don’t care what it is — but people have to be confident.”
Schroeder made the comments outside the jury’s presence after the defense and prosecutors clashed over video of the August 2020 unrest being played for the jury. As the two sides sparred, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger referenced Schroeder’s pretrial ruling allowing Rittenhouse’s team to present evidence suggesting the men Rittenhouse shot participated in looting, rioting or arson that night.
The mention seemed to upset Schroeder, who began talking about media coverage of that decision. The judge made national headlines regarding that ruling and another that barred the men Rittenhouse shot from being called “victims.” The judge received dozens of angry emails about the decisions, according to court records.
“There are people in the media, on reputable sites, that are saying things that are totally bizarre,” Schroeder said.
The judge specifically referenced a CNN report in which two legal analysts questioned the ruling, including one who described it as “incomprehensible.” According to CNN.com, legal analyst Areva Martin made the comment. Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin — whom Schroeder specifically singled out — called it a “really unnecessary and unfortunate beginning to this really important case.”
“That’s our rule,” Schroeder said. “It’s the law.”
The judge also criticized media accounts that correctly referenced that he had been reversed in a murder trial that resulted in a life sentence. Schroeder said he was reversed in the 2008 case, followed the appellate court’s instruction on the retrial and then was vindicated when he was reversed again.
“I was right,” he said.
Binger tried to steer the conversation back to the issue being debated, telling the judge he doesn’t pay attention to Toobin or any other media commentary on the case.
“It is of no concern to me,” Binger said.
The judge then took a break and stepped off the bench. There was no mention of the media when he returned.
Rittenhouse, who lived in far north suburban Antioch, was 17 when he fatally shot two people and wounded a third in downtown Kenosha with an AR-15-style rifle that a friend testified Tuesday he purchased for him because Rittenhouse was underage. Despite not being old enough to openly carry a gun, Rittenhouse decided to patrol the southeast Wisconsin town amid the turmoil surrounding the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white police officer days earlier in August 2020.
Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty, arguing he killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz in self-defense. His jury trial resumes Thursday.