Rittenhouse trial judge requests applause for veterans; critics howl

Some critics argued that Judge Bruce Schroeder's Veterans Day gesture was inappropriate during the trial.

Wisconsin Judge Bruce Schroeder took some criticism Thursday after requesting during the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial in Kenosha that attendees applaud for the nation’s service members on Veterans Day.

During a moment in the day’s proceedings, Schroeder asked if any veterans were present in the courtroom. Only John Black, a use-of-force expert who was later called to the witness stand by the defense, claimed to have served in the military, identifying himself as an Army veteran, The Associated Press reported.

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"I think we give a round of applause to the people who’ve served our country," Schroeder then said, drawing a few moments of clapping from those in attendance, including the jurors.

"I think we give a round of applause to the people who’ve served our country." 

— Judge Bruce Schroeder
Judge Bruce Schroeder in the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Nov. 10, 2021. (Getty Images)

Judge Bruce Schroeder in the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Nov. 10, 2021. (Getty Images)

But some critics argued that the judge’s Veterans Day gesture was inappropriate during the trial.

"As a former state & federal prosecutor, & defense attorney, I’m horrified at Schroeder’s untethered bias and unprofessionalism," Michael J. Stern, an opinion columnist for USA Today, wrote on Twitter.

Steven Wright, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin, claimed the applause for Black could have an unfair impact on the jury, possibly causing them to regard his testimony more favorably, the AP reported.

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The Rittenhouse trial has included testimony from at least two other veterans, Jason Lackowski and Ryan Balch, both of whom were members of the same armed group with Rittenhouse on the night of the shootings at the center of the trial, the AP reported.

Thursday was the final day of testimony in the case. Closing arguments are expected Monday, with jury deliberations to follow.