You shall not pinch to zoom: Rittenhouse trial judge disallows basic iPad feature

Yesterday, when Kenosha County prosecutor Thomas Binger interrogated Kyle Rittenhouse about his murder suspect case, he asked Rittenhouse to show Rittenhouse video and use the touchscreen feature that all tablet and phone owners use: pinch-to zoom.
What is Judge Bruce Schroeder’s ruling? You will not pinch.

After Rittenhouse's defense lawyer Mark Richards claimed that Apple's iPad programming creates what it believes is there, and not what is actually there, Schroeder stopped Binger from zooming in and pinching. Richards did not provide any evidence and admitted that he didn't know how pinch-to-zoom works. However, the judge ruled that the prosecution had to show that zooming in does not add new images to the video.

Binger used a Windows PC connected with a TV to display drone footage from August 25, 2019, the night of the Wisconsin shootings. Although the TV screen appeared to be an acceptable alternative to Binger’s preferred method of zooming on an iPad, Rittenhouse stated that he could not tell what was going on in the video when responding to some questions.

This much-mocked incident occurred at Kenosha County Circuit Court. You can read long excerpts of the pinch-to zoom discussion between lead defense attorney Richards and Assistant District Attorney Binger as well as Judge Schroeder. This part of the trial can be viewed on The Washington Post's YouTube channel. This discussion gives a glimpse at how criminal trials can be affected by judges' inexperience with technology, even though it's a common feature used by millions of people all ages.

"I don’t believe [zooming] is appropriate--it’s wrong."

Binger said that he would play the drone video and then "use pinch-and zoom" on his iPad to zoom in to the area. This exchange started during cross-examination. Richards interrupted Binger and said, "Your Honor, I'm going against this, and would like to be heard without the presence of jurors."

Richards made his objection after the jury had left.

Although I don't know what state will do next, I think it's something along these lines: They're going use the iPad. Mr. Binger was talking of pinching the screen. Apple's iPads have artificial intelligence that allows things to be viewed in three dimensions and logarithms.

Richards appeared to be trying to say "algorithms." Richards, when asked to repeat his statements, called them "algorithms" and said, "I don’t understand it all." Richards claimed that zooming in on an iPad screen can add things to an image that aren’t there, and asked the judge not to allow it.

The iPad uses artificial intelligence and their logarithms in order to create what they think is happening. This isn't really enhanced video. It's Apple's iPad programming creating what they think is there. Although I don't know what will happen, this was the topic that was discussed. I asked my expert and he said, "Does anyone know of any company that does something similar?" That was the time Detective [Ben] Antaramian gave evidence about him pinching his phone, and that was what I was told. I don't believe it's appropriate, it's wrong.

Advertisement Prosecutor - Pinch-to zoom is like a magnifying mirror

Binger said that almost everyone with a smartphone has zoomed into photos and videos, and that it doesn't alter the image fundamentally.

Everyone in the room probably has an iPhone or other smartphone. I'm sure we have all taken photos or videos at some point and used pinch-to zoom. This feature is part of every person's daily life. You had a magnifying lens and a photo in the old days. The photograph will not be altered by the magnifying glass. The magnifying glasses don't alter the image if you are using it to examine words on paper or photographs. The magnifying glass doesn't alter the pixels of a paper or the words in a book. It makes them easier to read. The pinch-to zoom feature on the iPad, the iPhone, or Android phone--or any other device in the room--does the exact same thing.

Binger argued then that it was the defense that has to prove that zooming is not allowed.

If counsel has an expert who says this is unreliable, distorting an image, or something along these lines, even though this is something everyone in this room has done with countless photos and videos over the past 10 years; this is a feature that is part of every day life in America. They can have an expert come in to say that it's unreliable, and the jury can decide if pinching and zooming on an iPad, iPhone, or other devices is tampering or altering the images or should not be given any weight. They can ask a jury any questions they wish. Counsel Richards' statements are not something I can understand. I have used my phone before, and I believe you have as well. It is common knowledge that people can pinch and zoom on their screens, which is what we are seeing here. It doesn't change the image in anyway.

Judge: "I know more than anyone else about all this stuff."

It became apparent quickly that Judge Schroeder believed that the prosecution had to prove that zooming in does not insert new pixels or alter objects in the video.

Schroeder stated:

It's not clear to me. The magnifying glass is enlarging an image but not altering it. The defense attorney is claiming, I believe, that the magnifying glass is enlarging the image, not altering it. However, I am hearing him say that they are inserting pixels into the images, which is altering what is being shown. When confronted by these technological changes, I tend to admit the evidence, but ensure that the finder is fully aware that it isn't the original image or the enhancement method. It seems like you are suggesting that the defense should bring in an expert to help. I would suggest that you are the one offering the exhibit and that you can provide evidence that the object isn't being distorted.

Binger claimed that the court could use "commonsense," but the judge said that zooming in on video could "insert additional items." Schroeder stated: