Judge starts Rittenhouse trial with trivia and lectures

Oct 31, 2021, 10:17 PM | Updated: Nov 1, 2021, 4:40 pm
Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder addresses the jury pool at the start of jury selection on the f...

Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder addresses the jury pool at the start of jury selection on the first day of trial for Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wis., Circuit Court Monday Nov. 1, 2021. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and wounding a third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha, last year. (Mark Hertzberg/Pool Photo via AP)

(Mark Hertzberg/Pool Photo via AP)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The judge presiding over Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial opened jury selection Monday with a round of “Jeopardy!”-like trivia, assured potential jurors he doesn’t have COVID-19 and reached back to the fall of the Roman Empire to emphasize the gravity of their duty.

Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder drew laughs in the courtroom — and some cringes on social media — as he peppered potential jurors with trivia questions, and offered commentary on some. When the answer to one was the movie “Psycho,” the 75-year-old Schroeder quipped: “You’ve heard of it.”

One potential juror told Schroeder he had nasal surgery scheduled in 10 days. The judge asked him, “What would you rather do, be here with me or have your nose operated on?” The man responded: “I’ll be honest with you, I’m not looking forward to it.” The judge laughed and said he would take it under consideration.

The tenor of Monday’s hearing was no surprise to one attorney who has appeared before Schroeder.

Michael Cicchini, a Kenosha-based defense attorney, said the beginning of jury selection can be “a logistical nightmare.” Attorneys are handed seating charts and other paperwork as jurors are led in, and they need time to get organized. Schroeder traditionally spends that time playing trivia with the jury pool until the attorneys are ready, he said.

Schroeder is presiding over one of the biggest trials of his career. Rittenhouse, 18, of Antioch, Illinois, shot three people during a protest against police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020. The protests began after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, who is Black, in the back during a domestic disturbance. Blake had been fighting with officers and had a knife; the county prosecutor later declined to charge the officer.

Rittenhouse has said he traveled to Kenosha to protect businesses from looting and arson. Two of the men he shot, Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, died of their wounds. Rittenhouse also shot and wounded a third man, Gaige Grosskreutz.

Rittenhouse contends he fired in self-defense and conservatives nationwide have rallied behind him, holding him up as a bulwark against chaotic protesters and a symbol of gun rights. Others, including liberals and activists, portray him as a domestic terrorist, saying he made a volatile situation worse by showing up with a gun.

Previously, Schroeder’s highest-profile case was the 2008 homicide trial of Mark Jensen, who was accused of poisoning and smothering his wife. Jensen was convicted, but appellate courts and the state Supreme Court ruled that Schroeder wrongly admitted as evidence a letter Jensen’s wife gave a neighbor saying if anything happened to her Jensen would be responsible. A new trial is set for 2022.

In 2018, Schroeder sentenced a woman convicted of shoplifting to tell the manager of any store she entered that she was on supervision for theft, saying embarrassment can deter criminality. A state appeals court tossed out that sentence.

Schroeder drew scrutiny last week when he told attorneys that Rosenbaum, Huber and Grosskreutz cannot be referred to in court as victims, calling the word “loaded.” But he rejected a prosecution request to block any reference to them as “rioters,” “looters” or “arsonists,” saying the defense can do so if supported by evidence.

On Monday, Schroeder suffered a coughing fit then reassured potential jurors he had been vaccinated three times against COVID-19. He also apologized for being disorganized, saying jury selection doesn’t usually occur on Monday mornings.

Schroeder finally began jury selection with a story about the war in Vietnam, comparing jury duty to being drafted, saying no one would be excused for minor reasons. He then asked for a round of applause for any veterans present.

Cicchini said Schroeder traditionally gives brief speeches about the history of trials to impress upon jurors the importance of their task. On Monday, he referenced the fall of Rome when explaining the system’s evolution.

“When Rome fell, the world changed dramatically,” the judge said, before launching into more history about how cases were decided more than 2,000 years ago. He spoke of priests blessing trials in which defendants had to place their hands on burning coals or in boiling water — if they “didn’t come out too badly,” that was a sign from God of their innocence.

Schroeder also cautioned that media coverage of the case may have misled potential jurors.

“This case has become very political,” he said. “It was involved in the politics of the last election year. … You could go out now and read things from all across the political spectrum about this case, most of which is written by people who know nothing. I don’t mean that that they are know-nothings. I mean that they don’t know what you’re going to know: those of you who are selected for this jury, who are going to hear for yourselves the real evidence in this case.”


This story has been corrected to add the missing word “You’ve” to judge’s quote on movie “Psycho.”


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


Associated Press reporters Amy Forliti in Minneapolis and Scott Bauer in Madison contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

UN says detained Iranian-American was allowed to leave Iran

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — An 85-year-old Iranian-American who formerly worked for the U.N. children’s agency and was detained in Iran in 2016 has been permitted to leave the country for medical treatment abroad, the United Nations said Saturday. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced the departure of Baquer Namazi and said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was grateful […]
14 hours ago
CORRECT NAME OF CYPRUS' PRESIDENT - Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades talks to the media, next t...
Associated Press

Minister: Greece can defend islands despite Turkey’s threats

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Greece has the right to take “all defensive measures” to protect its easternmost islands amid threats by neighboring Turkey that dispute Greek sovereignty rights and raise the specter of war, the Greek defense minister said Saturday. Speaking after Cyprus’ independence day military parade, Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos said Turkey’s “revisionist and destabilizing […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Mexican navy helicopter crashes, killing 3 marines

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican Navy said Saturday that three marines were killed and two others were injured after a reconnaissance helicopter crashed in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco. The Navy said in a statement that the Eurocopter craft went down during an aerial surveillance patrol. Video posted on social media showed what […]
14 hours ago
From left, A.J. McCullough of Sunset Beach, NC, mother of bride Monroe McCullough, an unidentified ...
Associated Press

Despite Ian’s punch, wedding day saved on wet Pawleys Island

PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Saturday turned out to be a sparklingly beautiful fall day in Pawleys Island, an idyllic spot for an early fall wedding in South Carolina, sandwiched between the Atlantic oceanfront and expansive marshland that typify the state’s coastal beauty. But the perfect wedding day almost didn’t come together for two families […]
14 hours ago
FILE - Democratic candidate for Georgia governor Stacey Abrams poses for a portrait in front of the...
Associated Press

GOP attacks Georgia’s Abrams on voting as judge rejects suit

ATLANTA (AP) — When Democrat Stacey Abrams narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race to Republican Brian Kemp four years ago, she didn’t go quietly. She ended her campaign with a nonconcession that acknowledged she wouldn’t be governor, while spotlighting her claims that Kemp had used his post as secretary of state to improperly purge likely […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Governor’s office reports at least 4 N.C. storm fatalities

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The remnants of Hurricane Ian downed trees and power lines across North Carolina, and at least four fatalities connected to the severe weather were reported Saturday. In Johnston County, outside of Raleigh, a woman found her husband dead early Saturday morning after he went to check on a generator running in […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Judge starts Rittenhouse trial with trivia and lectures