The judge in Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial defended his unusual choice to allow the teenager to pick six alternate jurors from a raffle tumbler before jury deliberations began on Tuesday.
Schroeder had to whittle down a group of 18 jurors who sat through the trial to just 12 who would deliberate Rittenhouse’s fate. Though it’s common for courtrooms to use a lottery-type system to draw jurors or alternate jurors, it’s often the courtroom clerk who physically draws the jurors’ numbers.
“I am now reading about how bizarre and unusual it was to have the defendant pick numbers out of the tumbler yesterday,” Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder said Wednesday, adding that he has made it standard practice to do so since a trial he oversaw in Racine, Wisconsin, roughly 20 years ago.
Schroeder said the defendant in the Racine case was Black, and there was only one Black person in the pool of 13 jurors. He said when the clerk or government official drew the alternate, it happened to be the lone Black juror.
“There was nothing wrong with it — it was all okay, but what do they talk about? Optics nowadays? Is that the word for things? It was a bad optic, I thought,” Schroeder 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.”
Schroeder noted that he’d never received a complaint about the practice — nor did he receive any pushback from the prosecutors or defense attorneys in the Rittenhouse case. He suggested that some viewers of the trial, which has been streamed live in its entirety, were simply using the incident as an excuse to cast doubt on the eventual verdict.
“Some people seem to be dissatisfied with that. People who want to undermine the result of the trial,” Schroeder said.
Rittenhouse is charged with killing two men and injuring a third amid civil unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August 2020.
Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to all charges, claiming he shot all three men in self-defense after they attacked him.