Why A Judge Refusing To Call People Kyle Rittenhouse Shot ‘Victims’ Sets A Dangerous Precedent For His Trial

Photo: CNN / YouTube
Kyle Rittenhouse and Judge Bruce Schroeder

Kyle Rittenhouse claimed the lives of two victims after shooting three men during the civil unrest in Kenosha, Wisconson, and wants to argue that he acted in “self-defense” for his upcoming trial.

Following the shooting of Jacob Blake in late August 2020, by police officer Rusten Sheskey, people took to the streets to protest and express their grief — resulting in the Rittenhouse shooting.

But for a judge in the case, the men shot that day are not worthy of our sympathy.

Kyle Rittenhouse's judge doesn't want the men he shot to be called 'victims.'

Kenosha County Judge Bruce Schroeder told lawyers on both sides of the trial that the use of the term, “victims,” would be prohibited in describing the people who were shot by Rittenhouse, but the terms, “rioters” and “looters” would be allowed.

During the hearing on Monday, Judge Schroeder denied a request from Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger and told him that the other terms would be allowed only if the defense can produce evidence showing that’s what they were.

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Rittenhouse, 18, drove up from Antioch, Illinois, claiming that he went to Kenosha to guard a business and help people who got hurt after the reports of unrest were released.

As a result of the unrest and being chased down the street, Rittenhouse fired his AR-15, which he was allowed to carry according to state hunting laws, injuring one Gaige Grosskreutz and killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber.

He was subsequently charged with homicide and other crimes and will face trial on November 1st where he could be given a life sentence.

As the lawyers at the hearing argued over what evidence could and couldn’t be used during the trial, Judge Schroeder stated his opinion on the term “victim.”

"This is a long-held opinion of mine, which very few judges, I guess, share with me,” he said. “I think the word victim is a loaded, loaded word."

But as it turns out, the word “victim” isn’t loaded at all and has a very clear definition that fits the description of the men involved in the shooting.

A victim is described as someone “who is harmed or killed by another, especially by someone committing a criminal or unlawful act,” according to The American Heritage Dictionary.

The “especially,” matters in two ways here. It implies that the situation doesn’t only arise after a criminal or unlawful act and could happen at any time when someone is harmed or killed.

But it also further proves the point that the three victims in the Rittenhouse shooting were shot in a criminal or unlawful act — Rittenhouse was charged with homicide, which is against the law.

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Judge Schroeder’s prohibition of the term, “victim,” implies that Rittenhouse's actions was a victimless crime or that these killings were somehow justified.

Further emphasized by the fact that he went on to say that the defense could call the victims, “rioters” or “looters,” which makes it seem like they were dangerous and that Rittenhouse was somehow right in shooting them.

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This language is incredibly dangerous in Kyle Rittenhouse's case. 

For a long time, the Black Lives Matter movement and protesters of police brutality have been painted as “thugs” and are depicted as violent by conservatives.

Some called Rittenhouse a “hero” for his actions that night in Kenosha, and police even told him and other militia members on the streets that they appreciated their presence.

Rittenhouse became a kind of anti-woke symbol for MAGA supporters and Proud Boys who ought to be reminded that there were, in fact, clear victims in this attack.

Soften the language around these deaths while also labelling the victims as anything but victims distract from the horrific crimes Rittenhouse is accused of perpetrating. 

Until the trial is held on November 1st and a verdict is made, the effects of Judge Schroeder’s statements won’t be known, but many are already calling for a mistrial and ask that the judge recuse himself.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice, and politics. Follow him on Twitter here.