Who Is the Judge in the Kyle Rittenhouse Trial?

Bruce Schroeder is presiding over the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse and at times took a strict line with prosecutors.


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The judge, who has clashed with prosecutors, has been ‘in this business for 50 years.’

Nov. 10, 2021, 1:49 p.m. ET

Nov. 10, 2021, 1:49 p.m. ET

Judge Bruce Schroeder began working as a circuit judge in 1983.Credit…Pool photo by Sean Krajacic

Bruce Schroeder, the longest-serving circuit court judge in Wisconsin, is presiding over the homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse.

At times during Mr. Rittenhouse’s testimony on Wednesday he took a strict line with prosecutors, clashing with them over a reference to Mr. Rittenhouse’s silence in the months before the trial and an attempt to introduce testimony on a previous incident that the judge had ruled inadmissible.

“The problem is this is a grave constitutional violation for you to talk about the defendant’s silence,” Judge Schroeder told prosecutors.

Judge Schroeder, 75, who has said he believes that he has seen more homicide trials than any other judge in the state, graduated from Marquette Law School in 1970, worked as a prosecutor and began serving as a circuit judge in 1983.

His longevity is a subject of frequent conversation in the courtroom. As he said during jury selection in the trial, he has been “in this business for 50 years.”

In Kenosha legal circles, Judge Schroeder has a reputation for strictness in sentencing. He is known for delivering lectures to prospective jurors about their civic duty, which in this trial he likened to serving as an American soldier in Vietnam.

He frequently complains about media bias and the impact that news coverage can have on prospective jurors. As Judge Schroeder quizzed prospective jurors, he said that he has read news articles on the Rittenhouse case and has asked himself whether he was in the same courtroom that was described in the articles.

He has also acknowledged that some of the topics raised in pretrial hearings are new to him. Until this case, Judge Schroeder said in a hearing, he had never heard of the Proud Boys, a far-right group that offered support to Mr. Rittenhouse after the Kenosha shootings, and was unfamiliar with the “O.K.” hand sign as a gesture that has been co-opted by white supremacists.

“The first time I saw it, or a version of it, was Chef Boyardee on a can of spaghetti,” the judge said.

In one of the judge’s highest-profile cases, the 2008 murder trial of Mark Jensen — who was accused of poisoning his wife, Julie, with antifreeze and then smothering her in their garage — a conviction was overturned when appellate courts and the state Supreme Court ruled that Judge Schroeder had improperly allowed evidence in the trial.

The judge allowed the prosecution to present a letter that Julie Jensen had written and given to a neighbor, as well as voice mail messages she left for a police officer, suggesting that if anything happened to her, her husband would be responsible. Mr. Jensen will face a new trial next year.

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