Lightfoot Says Rittenhouse Judge ‘Put His Thumb on the Scale' During Murder Trial

While Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says that she respect’s the jury’s acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse in his Wisconsin murder trial, she had some strong words for Judge Bruce Schroeder’s handling of the case, saying that the judge “put his thumb on the scale” with some of his actions during the trial.

Speaking Monday at a press conference, Lightfoot says that the jury in the case was well-aware of their heavy responsibilities in the case, but that they took cues from Schroeder’s actions, which included allowing Rittenhouse to participate in the selection process of the final jury and in his interactions with prosecutors in the case.

“I’m an old trial lawyer, and I know when I see a judge putting his thumb on a scale for a particular result, I was not at all surprised,” she said. “Did he do well excluding evidence, not allowing the deceased to be called victims, not letting certain things go?”

Lightfoot worked as an assistant U.S. Attorney, and also worked in a variety of other legal positions, including as a defense attorney in private practice, before joining the Chicago Police Board and Task Force in 2015.

Lightfoot says the decisions to not allow prosecutors to call the two individuals killed by Rittenhouse “victims,” as well as the judge’s harsh rebukes of prosecutors’ moves to ask questions about evidence that had been ordered excluded from the trial, sent cues to the jury, intentionally or not.

“In a trial like this, every single one of those jurors knew this is a very big deal, and I think that they took their responsibility very seriously,” she said. “But they’re looking for cues, not just from the prosecutor and the defense attorney, but they look for cues from the judge. That’s why it’s so important when you are a trial judge in any case, but particularly in something as sensitive as this, you’ve got to call balls and strikes, and you’ve got to be very even-handed.”

Schroeder defended his actions during the trial, saying that the term "victims" was an unfairly loaded one.

"(Use of the word victim is) re-judging what the jury is here to determine, as to whether there's a victim and whether there was a crime committed," he said.

Lightfoot also says she was surprised when Rittenhouse was allowed to pull the numbers of the six jurors who would be dismissed to the alternate pool before deliberations began, saying she had never seen that done in a trial. 

"I think people feel better when they have control," Schroeder said of that decision during the trial. "I'd never had a complaint about it before."

The mayor also had big-picture concerns about the ramifications of the trial’s verdict, expressing anger at several members of Congress, including Reps. Matt Gaetz and Paul Gosar, who offered Rittenhouse jobs after the trial concluded.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot reacted to the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict after a jury on Friday found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all counts in his murder trial connected to the shootings of three people during unrest in Kenosha during the summer of 2020.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn also offered Rittenhouse “an internship,” and said on social media that the verdict in the case allows conservatives to “be armed and dangerous.”

“A lot of groups that, frankly in my view, are anti-American and anti-democracy, are using this as a rallying cry,” Lightfoot said. “I’m very concerned about what this verdict does.”

Lightfoot once again urged Chicagoans to “respect the jury’s decision” in the case, but said that she still has concerns about how the shootings unfolded.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, R-Ga., called Kyle Rittenhouse “one of [the] good ones,” while New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said calling the verdict a “miscarriage of justice is an understatement."

“Why on Earth did that child have an AR-15, leave his home in Antioch, and think that he had the right to go up to another state to supposedly protect a city?” she said. “That makes no sense to me. And if it’s a free-for-all, and everybody can simply take matters into their own hands, we’re going to devolve into chaos, and that’s what I’m concerned about.

“He had no business being there. None,” she added.

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