On Thursday, in the Kyle Rittenhouse murder case, Judge Bruce Schroeder started the day by asking all in the courtroom (including the jury) if they have ever served in the military. John Black, the defense expert on the use-of-force, was the only military veteran to speak up in courtroom. Schroeder motioned to jury and stated that he believes everyone should give "rounds of applause" to those who have served, while gesturing toward Black.
For 27 years, I was a criminal lawyer. I have been a defense and federal prosecutor. In all my years of experience, I have never witnessed a trial judge place the jury in a position to applaud a defense witness before they take the stand to testify.
Additional: Kyle Rittenhouse should be awarded for his dramatic performance at the witness stand.
Bad behaviour on the job
In any criminal jury trial, a judge should not ask members of the jury to applaud witnesses who are about to testify. I am a Marine Corps Veteran. It is a great feeling to be thanked by others for my service. Trial judges must avoid giving the impression that they are favoring one side or the other in a trial. Judges must not have a positive opinion on witnesses, or praise them for their military service.
This incident follows a series of rulings against the prosecution, which has led to the perception that many people in the public believe that the judge favors the defense because of political motives.
Jeffrey Abramson, Dennis Aftergut: Rittenhouse cases - Arbery, Unite the Right, Rittenhouse cases - show difficulties in finding impartial jurors
This was made worse when Schroeder's cell phone rang during the trial. His ringtone was "God Bless America" by Lee Greenwood. This is the official theme song for Trump rallies and it's often played whenever Trump takes to the stage.
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Faith in the process
Both the parties to a case and the public need to feel that the process was fair. Many people have been affected by these unusual events and feel that the judge is biased.
Kyle Rittenhouse with his attorney Corey Chirafisi, Kenosha (Wis.), on November 11, 2021
It is vital that everyone has confidence in the fairness of Rittenhouse's trial. Many people believe that the verdict was not fair, regardless of what it is.
Ron Filipkowski, a former prosecutor and Marine, is currently a criminal defense lawyer.
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This article first appeared on USA TODAY: Kyle Rittenhouse trial. Did Judge Bruce Schroeder act prudently