Legal Experts Weigh In On Rittenhouse Judge's Behavior

Crime
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Damir Mujezinovic

Charged with multiple counts of homicide and unlawful possession of a firearm, Kyle Rittenhouse faces a sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Rittenhouse wounded one and killed two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in the summer of 2020, during the Black Lives Matter protests, but claims that he acted in self defense.

Rittenhouse's trial -- which is all but certain to come to an end this week -- has attracted unprecedented attention from the public, with many criticizing Judge Bruce Schroeder as biased in the shooter's favor.

But what do experts say?

Criticism

Liberal politicians, journalists, and activists have all claimed that Schroeder has behaved inappropriately since the beginning of the trial, clearly siding with the defendant.

As NBC News reported, critics have accused Schroeder of lashing out at the prosecutors, claimed that it was inappropriate to request everyone applaud for veterans on Veterans Day, and criticized him for having God Bless the USA as his ringtone.

Some even suggested that Schroeder made a racist joke when he mentioned Asian food delivery.

Former Democratic Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, for instance, described Schroeder as "an incompetent Judge on the case who ought not to be on the bench."

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Experts Weigh In

Steven Wright, a clinical law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said that judges need to be neutral, but made it clear that he doesn't share Dean's opinion.

"The things I've seen from the judge wouldn't constitute misconduct or jeopardize Mr. Rittenhouse's constitutional right to a fair trial, but any time that the judge approaches the line of a controversial or polarizing issue, it hurts that goal to instill nationwide faith in our criminal justice system," Wright noted.

"It was Chief Justice John Roberts who said 'judges are like umpires.' So the umpire should never be the star of the baseball game," he said.

Is Schroeder Biased?

Defense attorney Michael Cicchini, who has had more than 10 jury trials before Schroeder over the years, told NBC News that the judge's behavior during the trial has not been unusual at all.

"You've got to be thick-skinned if you want to practice in Kenosha. Schroeder is not even the worst of the judges I've appeared before in that regard," Cicchini said.

Kenosha-based attorney Mark Nielsen echoed these sentiments.

"Schroeder's got this reputation as 'Bruce the Terrible.' It's not true, in my experience," Nielsen said.

'He's A Traditionalist'

[YouTube][Reuters]

Lawyer John Anthony Ward, who has had more than 30 jury trials before Schroeder, said that he judge's rulings have been exceptionally consistent over the years.

Ward noted that Schroeder is "not showboating for the cameras."

"He's not purely liberal. He's not purely conservative. He's a traditionalist. So if you want to define Judge Schroeder, it's this simple. He wants the guilty to be found guilty and the innocent to be found not guilty," Ward added.

Other attorneys who have had cases before Schroeder told NBC News that the judge can be pretty unpredictable in sentencing.

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