Crime Rittenhouse case raises question: What makes a fair trial?
EXPLAINER: Prosecutors play up Rittenhouse inexperience
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Prosecutors trying to convict Kyle Rittenhouse of murder have been working to paint him as an inexperienced teenager who misrepresented his age and medical training to other armed civilians in his group on the night he shot three men during a protest against police brutality in Wisconsin last year. Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger has drawn out testimony during the first week of Rittenhouse's trial from severalAssistant District Attorney Thomas Binger has drawn out testimony during the first week of Rittenhouse's trial from several witnesses, including two military veterans, saying the Illinois teen appeared inexperienced, that he falsely claimed that he was old enough to possess a gun and tha
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — At one point, the 18-year-old murder defendant stood behind the seated, black-robed judge and peered over him to review evidence. At another, on Veterans Day, the judge led the jury and others in the courtroomjust as a defense witness who had served in the Army was about to testify.
And as the case neared its conclusion, the judge permitted the defendant to draw numbers from a raffle drum to determine— creating the appearance, however small, that the defendant was helping to administer his own trial.
EXPLAINER: Does Kyle Rittenhouse need to testify?
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Defense attorneys typically encourage their clients to testify in self-defense cases. But Kyle Rittenhouse's murder trial is anything but typical and it's still unclear whether the Illinois man will take the stand to explain to jurors what he was thinking when he shot three people during a protest in Wisconsin last year. Rittenhouse's attorney, Mark Richards, told the jury during opening statements last week that they would hear from Rittenhouse himself about how protesters were carrying rocks.
Asin the Kenosha courtroom of Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder, moments of apparent deference to the defendant have struck many observers as curiously different from how murder proceedings often unfold.
Schroeder, the longest-serving circuit judge in Wisconsin, said he's been letting defendants draw jury alternates' numbers for decades. Legal experts said that might be unconventional, but not necessarily wrong.
EXPLAINER: Did Rittenhouse lawyers do enough to prevail?
KENOSHA, Wisconsin (AP) — When Kyle Rittenhouse took the stand to testify about his actions the night he shot three men on the streets of Kenosha — sobbing and seemingly unable to continue as he approached the critical moment where he shot the first man — it was one of the most compelling moments in his two-week murder trial. It might have been the most effective part of his three-day defense, too, potentially swaying any jurors inclined toward sympathy for the 18-year-old who has claimed self-defense in the shootings that left two of the men dead.
But if the judge had led jurors in clapping as a prosecution witness took the stand, making that witness seem more laudable or credible, it would surely be grounds for defense attorneys to appeal a conviction, notedfaculty co-director of the Criminal Justice Center at the Stanford Law School.
If nothing else, the discussion about the judge's conduct has underlined the importance of how the judicial system is perceived — especially in a high-profile case where the outcome can exacerbate societal tensions around issues like race, guns, protests, vigilantism, and law and order.
“Our hope is that the court system and our judges, while human, will uphold this role of a neutral arbiter so that everybody gets a fair trial — the defendant and the people — and that we can arrive at a decision that we can all agree on was legitimate,” saida former federal prosecutor who teaches at the University of Washington Law School.
Jury to begin deliberations at Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial
KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — Jurors will begin deliberations Tuesday at Kyle Rittenhouse's murder trial after two weeks of testimony in which prosecutors and defense attorneys painted starkly different pictures of his actions the night he shot three men on the streets of Kenosha. Prosecutors claimed in closing arguments Monday that Rittenhouse was a “wannabe soldier” who provoked bloodshed by bringing a semi-automatic rifle to a protest and menacing others, then walking off like a “hero in a Western” after killing two men and wounding a third. © Provided by Associated Press A lone protester stands outside the Kenosha County Courthouse, late Monday, Nov.
“When people have doubts about that impartiality," Fan said, "it undermines our trust in the justice of the verdict.”
Rittenhouse, a white former police youth cadet, faces life in prison if convicted as charged for using an AR-style semi-automatic rifle to kill two men and wound a third during a night of protests against racial injustice in the summer of 2020. The killings followed the police shooting ofa Black man, during a domestic disturbance in Kenosha.
Rittenhouse testified he acted in self-defense. Prosecutors argue he went to the protest looking for a reason to shoot.
It’s primarily the defendant, not prosecutors, whose rights are protected under the law, and judges must guard them carefully. Schroeder has done so appropriately in some instances, legal experts said, such as when he scolded prosecutor Thomas Binger for asking Rittenhouse why he had not discussed the shootings before taking the witness stand. Defendants have a right to remain silent.
Kyle Rittenhouse trial: Jury still deliberating verdict as judge considers mistrial over drone video
Jurors in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial were to deliberate for a third day while the judge considers a request from the defense for a mistrial. Your browser does not support this video A key piece of evidence in the prosecution's case — a drone video that shows Rittenhouse fatally shooting the first man he fired at on the night of Aug. 25, 2020 — was called into question Wednesday when Rittenhouse's defense lawyers said they received a lower quality version of the clip.
But judges should not be so solicitous of a defendant that it raises questions about the fairness of the trial. Balancing that can be tricky, especially where a jurist's decisions are under such national scrutiny. Siding too closely with a defendant could lead to a wrongful acquittal or inflame societal tensions, while an obvious alignment with prosecutors could lead to a tainted — and ultimately overturned — conviction.
“The judge should be as close to invisible as possible,” Weisberg said.
Schroeder has been anything but. He laughs often,, has and made an attention-getting comment suggesting that he hoped the Asian food coming for lunch wasn't stuck at backlogged West Coast ports. He has
Kyle Rittenhouse Found Not Guilty of All Charges in Fatal Shooting of 2 Men At Black Lives Matter Protest
Kyle Rittenhouse, then 17, was accused of homicide for using an AR-style rifle to kill two people during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha, Wisc., last yearJurors embraced the claim that Kyle Rittenhouse was defending himself when he fatally shot two men and injured a third last year, clearing him of homicide Friday along with all related charges that included recklessly brandishing a dangerous weapon during a Black Lives Matter protest over police brutality in Kenosha, Wisc.
The 75-year-old Schroeder, on the bench since 1983, isn’t known for leniency toward defendants. In 2018, he ordered a woman convicted of shoplifting to tell the manager of any store she entered that she was on supervision for theft.
Schroeder told the woman that “embarrassment does have a valuable place in deterring criminality.” A state appeals court overturned the sentence.
Some of his pretrial rulings in the Rittenhouse case have also drawn attention. He ruled that prosecutors couldn’t argue that Rittenhouse was affiliated with the Proud Boys or that he attacked a woman months before the shootings. Nor would he allow the people Rittenhouse shot to be referred to as “victims."
Facts about a defendant's background are often excluded from trial if they're not relevant to the charges at hand, and “victims” could be considered a prejudicial term when a defendant is claiming self-defense.
Other rulings were more unusual.
Awaiting the trial, Rittenhouse had been out of custody on bail. When he moved and failed to update his address — an apparent violation — prosecutors sought to have him re-arrested, with his bail increased.
During a testy hearing earlier this year, the judge refused — and wouldn't share the defendant’s new address with prosecutors, noting defense arguments that Rittenhouse was in hiding because of threats.
“I hope you’re not suggesting sharing this with our office would lead to further violence,” Binger said at the time. “I have never heard of a situation where the information has been withheld from my office.”
Rittenhouse lawyers' trial playbook: Don't 'crusade,' defend
Soon after a Wisconsin jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse of all charges against him, defense attorney Mark Richards took a swipe at his predecessors, telling reporters that their tactics — leaning into Rittenhouse's portrayal as a rallying point for the right to carry weapons and defend oneself — were not his. “I was hired by the two first lawyers. I’m not going to use their names,” Richards said Friday. “They wanted to use Kyle for a cause and something that I think was inappropriate — and I don’t represent causes. I represent clients.
Questions about the optics of Rittenhouse's case date to the moments after the shootings. Video quickly emerged of Rittenhouse walking by police with his hands up and his rifle strapped to his chest while witnesses identified him as the shooter. Police did not immediately arrest him, and he later turned himself in.
An officer testified that he did not hear witnesses yelling that Rittenhouse was the shooter, but in the days afterward many people questioned whether a Black gunman would have received such hands-off treatment.
Aspects of the trial have been similarly noteworthy. At one point, Rittenhouse stood behind Schroeder as they reviewed evidence — a moment that occurred outside the presence of the jury, but which nevertheless was captured in news images and appeared striking for having a murder defendant so close to a judge.
Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor who now works as an attorney in Chicago, said he didn't believe Schroeder had unduly sided with Rittenhouse. He noted the behavior of judges varies widely in a system where they win their seats through electoral politics, not necessarily legal merit.
Lawyers, he suggested, simply must adjust to each courtroom.
“You learn the music the judge is playing,” he said, “and then you dance to it.”
Johnson reported from Seattle. Forliti reported from Minneapolis.
Find AP’s full coverage of the Rittenhouse trial:
Protesters trace route Rittenhouse took in Kenosha .
KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — Several dozen people gathered below the wind-whipped Wisconsin flag at Kenosha's Civic Center Park on Sunday and warmed up with chants for justice before taking to the streets in protest of the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse. Demonstrators traced the route Rittenhouse took the night in August last year when he shot and killed two people and wounded a third during protests over police brutality. They carried signs that said “Reject Racist Vigilante Terror” and “THE WHOLE SYSTEM IS GUILTY!” A couple of protesters carried long guns.