The Judge and Kyle Rittenhouse

November 1, 2021 Updated: November 1, 2021

Commentary

Kyle Rittenhouse, whose trial begins today, is accused of murder in the fatal shootings of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber. He’s also accused of several lesser charges, including the wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz. It seems, however, that Rittenhouse has a strong case for self-defense and, even more important, he has a fair judge adjudicating the case.

A little background to jog your memory: In August 2020, riots erupted in Wisconsin in the aftermath of the police shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake. These were the “fiery but mostly peaceful protests” immortalized by CNN. Rittenhouse, then a mere 17-year-old, came armed to protect what he saw as innocent families and businesses that were being violently attacked and torched by rioters, many of them associated with Antifa and Black Lives Matter.

We’ll hear a lot in the coming weeks about what exactly happened between Rittenhouse and the three men he allegedly shot, but from video footage of the incidents, it seems that Rittenhouse has a strong case of self-defense. In each incident he appears to be the one under assault by armed assailants, so it seems plausible he was in reasonable fear for his life when he opened fire on each of them.

What I want to discuss here, however, is not the case in chief but the pre-trial proceedings that unfolded over the last few weeks. These are crucial, because they establish the judicial framework for the case. The first critical development was that Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder barred the prosecution from referring to the three individuals Rittenhouse shot as “victims.”

At the same time, the judge ruled that the defense could describe the same three as “looters,” “rioters,” and “arsonists” if there was evidence of them looting, rioting, and setting things on fire. The prosecution was outraged, at one point pleading that “all we’re talking about is arson,” which the judge immediately pounced on with a contemptuous, “Come on!” He wouldn’t let the prosecution get away with the idea that arson was somehow no big deal.

Immediately following the judge’s instructions, the left erupted on social media accusing Judge Schroeder of bias. Why let the defense use such loaded terms as “rioter” or “arsonist” when the prosecution was barred from using the loaded term “victim”? Some Antifa types even warned that his ruling signaled that Rittenhouse would walk free, and they pledged a new round of violence if this happened.

I’ve seen very little media coverage of the rational basis for Judge Schroeder’s supposed double standard. Basically, the judge said that it wasn’t appropriate for Rosenbaum, Huber, and Grosskreutz to be called murder victims or victims of unlawful shooting because no murder or unlawful shooting had yet been proved. In fact, the judge said the prosecution couldn’t presume what it first had the responsibility to establish.

This struck me as a profound point, because it’s commonplace these days to hear people who claim to be victims described as victims. This is routine in criminal trials, but also in our popular political discourse. For instance, Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of assaulting her decades ago, never produced a single witness to corroborate her charge and yet she was routinely called a victim. Arguably, that’s just politics, which necessarily involves overheated rhetoric and an element of deception, but clearly Judge Schroeder wants none of that to contaminate a case in which Rittenhouse’s life is at stake.

The prosecution, at least from early indications, seems to be going all out to get Rittenhouse. One indication of the prosecution’s unrestrained strategy was its attempt to get a list of donors nationwide who gave money to the Kyle Rittenhouse defense fund. The objective was to make sure that donors did not serve on the jury. However, another objective was clear: The media could then publicize these names, so that the individuals who helped Rittenhouse secure competent legal counsel could be defamed on social media, ostracized, and possibly even fired from their jobs.

Once again, Judge Schroeder would have none of it. He made the obvious point that he doesn’t have the authority to compel the procurement of the list of donors. So no donor names will be released to the prosecution or the media hounds who seem to be working in league with the prosecution.

Then the prosecution moved to include evidence at trial of Rittenhouse meeting twice with members of the Proud Boys. The objective here was to portray Rittenhouse as a racist, because he was seen cavorting with a notoriously racist group. Whether the Proud Boys is racist is open to question—the group’s head is a Latino man, and no credible evidence of racism has ever been produced against the organization as a whole.

Even so, prosecutor Thomas Binger told the judge that “most everyone that was there … was there because of their beliefs.” He described Rittenhouse and others as “chaos tourists” who were “drawn like a moth to the flame to our community.” Rittenhouse, Binger said, was “drawn to this incident because of his beliefs, which are consistent with those of the Proud Boys. … [The group] takes pride in using violence to achieve their means.”

But Judge Schroeder nicely sidestepped this issue by noting that Rittenhouse’s meetings with the Proud Boys—one at a tavern in Wisconsin, the other in Miami—occurred subsequent to the shootings. In other words, when Rittenhouse was being reviled as a murderer and had virtually no supporters or allies, he found a sympathetic ear among members of the Proud Boys group and so he took pictures with them, ate with them, and met with their leader.

So what? “If this organization embraces the defendant after the fact,” Judge Schroeder said, “… that is not something that the jury can make anything out of that would be lawful.” In other words, the jury cannot ascribe to Rittenhouse racist motives during the shootings that are presumed or derived from his associations that developed only subsequent to the shootings.

It seems refreshing, in this era of politicized justice, to find a judge who appears to be, if I can use this term, a straight shooter. Judge Schroeder knows how deeply politicized this trial is, and precisely for this reason he seems determined to make sure that it doesn’t degenerate—as the Derek Chauvin trial clearly did—into an atmosphere of mob intimidation and mob justice.

If Rittenhouse walks, and the Antifa thugs who are pledging violence make good on their threats, my hope is that they find themselves before Judge Schroeder. He seems to know how to distinguish between rioters, looters, and arsonists on the one hand, and a young man defending his fellow citizens and his own imperiled life on the other.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Dinesh D’Souza is an author, filmmaker, and daily host of the Dinesh D’Souza podcast.