Rittenhouse judge's nod to veterans includes defense witness

As jurors in Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial settled into their courtroom seats, Judge Bruce Schroeder welcomed them and noted the Veterans Day holiday

The longtime judge then asked if any of the jurors or others in the courtroom had served. Only one person indicated he had: The man about to testify in support of Rittenhouse's defense.

“What branch?” Schroeder asked use-of-force expert John Black.

“Army, sir," Black said.

“I think we give a round of applause to the people who've served our country,” Schroeder said, leading the room including jurors in clapping.

Black then took the stand, testifying that less than three seconds elapsed between the time a protester fired a shot in the air and Rittenhouse opened fire with his rifle.

For some trial observers, Schroeder's opening was a clear mistake that could have swayed jurors' opinion of a defense witness at the expense of prosecutors' already shaky case.

But other watchers shrugged it off, suggesting prosecutors were best served letting the moment pass without objection.

Steven Wright, a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Law, characterized the moment as a mistake. Schroeder making Black's military service clear to the jury risked making him more credible in their eyes, Wright said.

But the issue is unlikely to be scrutinized, whatever the outcome of this trial.

If jurors find Rittenhouse not guilty, there's likely no appeal. If they find him guilty, Schroeder's mistake could only be seen as an aid to Rittenhouse rather than a point of argument on appeal, Wright said.

Rittenhouse's attorney also asked Black questions about his professional background during his testimony, and Black briefly discussed his military service.

High public interest in Rittenhouse case has meant more scrutiny for Schroeder, a colorful judge who killed time before jury selection by testing jurors' trivia knowledge, shouted at the prosecutor this week over a line of questioning and often pokes fun at himself on the bench.

Observers seized on the remark, an apparent reference to a cargo ship backlog seen on the West Coast, as questionable at best and racist at worst.

Schroeder didn't immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Thursday afternoon.

———

Find AP’s full coverage on the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse at: https://apnews.com/hub/kyle-rittenhouse