Kyle Rittenhouse is headed to trial, charged with the murder of two protestors in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse has said that he shot three individuals after he traveled from his home state of Illinois to do what he describes as defending local businesses, but he claims that it was in self-defense.However, there are already numerous controversies, concerns, and questions about the handling of the case, even before opening statements — and in fact, opening statements are central to one of these concerns. In a pre-trial ruling, Judge Bruce Schroeder has said that these opening statements cannot refer to the men who were shot as “victims.”
There’s been a lot of speculation about whether this portrays a bias by the judge, and whether it sways the outcome — and fairness — of the trial.
In this week’s Legal AF podcast from Meidas Touch, trial lawyer and strategist Michael Popok breaks down what this really means for the trial and the case, and the outcome that he personally predicts. The full podcast covers a lot of other currently relevant legal topics, including SCOTUS arguments on the Texas abortion ban and the failure of the background check system in Dylann Roof’s case, but the last several minutes are devoted to the Rittenhouse trial.
The video below should start just after the 1 hour 14-minute mark as Popok begins to break down the “victim” ruling.
In essence, he says that the ruling isn’t a display of any prejudice in favor of Rittenhouse from the judge. In fact, Judge Schroeder follows a school of thought that says that using the word “victim” early in a case can be prejudicial, and risks a conviction being overturned.
In fact, it’s not a blanket ban. Later in the trial, after sufficient evidence is entered to establish that the men were victims, rather than the aggressors as the defense alleges, he will hear arguments to allow the word in closing statements.
Though much has been made of the possibility that the defense will use the terms “looters” and “rioters” for the men who were shot — arguably as loaded and potentially prejudicial as “victim” — these too are only to be allowed after (and if) sufficient evidence is entered to establish that they’re accurate labels.
What's Your Reaction?
Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com