Wisconsin Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder is caught in another controversy in the murder trial for Kyle Rittenhouse. This time he referred to a juror in a past case as “the Black” while trying to explain why Rittenhouse, the defendant, played a direct role in randomly choosing the final 12 jurors who will be deciding the outcome of the trial.
On Wednesday, Judge Schroeder admitted that the practice is not common in courtrooms but he said he began allowing a defendant to select alternate jurors because of an incident 20 years ago when the defendant was Black and there was only one Black juror.
Judge Schroeder said the court clerk drew the numbers of the alternate jurors during that trial and the one black juror was dismissed.
“There were 13 jurors, one of whom was Black. And when the clerk, the government official, drew the name out of the tumbler, it was a Black, the Black, the only Black. There was nothing wrong with it, it was all OK, but what do they talk about – optics, nowadays … That was a bad optic, I thought,” he said.
“I think people feel better when they have control, so ever since that case I’ve had an almost universal policy of having the defendant do the picks.”
The jury began deliberations on Tuesday, minutes after Rittenhouse drew the numbers.
Rittenhouse was charged with five felonies: first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, after shooting three men, two fatally, at a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year after police shot unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake.
Judge Schroeder dismissed a misdemeanor weapons possession charge and a non-criminal curfew violation prior to deliberations, CNN reports.
If convicted on the most serious charge, first-degree intentional homicide, he could face life in prison.