CNN chief legal correspondent Jeffrey Toobin warned that Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder may have done irreversible damage to the prosecution of Kyle Rittenhouse with preliminary rulings issued on Tuesday.
"Kyle Rittenhouse is set to go on trial next week for murder," CNN's John Berman reported. "The teenager killed two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during protests last year in the aftermath of the Jacob Blake police shooting. The judge at a pretrial hearing set some ground rules that generated huge controversy, he ruled that the people that Rittenhouse killed, the dead people, cannot be called victims but they can be called rioters, looters and arsonists."
Berman asked Toobin for his analysis.
"It is a very weird -- it is a very weird ruling," Toobin said. "What's very weird is allowing this extremely pejorative — assuming the conclusion — words of rioters and looters, which all and all should help Rittenhouse's defense a great deal."
"Yeah, if calling the dead people victims is prejudicial, you would think that, likewise, calling them rioters or arsonists or looters would be prejudicial also," Berman noted.
"Well, highly and that's the argument the prosecutor made in court yesterday, unsuccessfully," Toobin replied. "And I think, you know, it is a very troubling situation because, again, using that word suggests that Rittenhouse was justified in what he was doing, because these were bad people that he shot, they were committing crimes, they were out there looting, they were out there being arsonists, when that is very much in dispute in the trial, just, you know, what these people were doing."
"And, remember, it is not the -- it is not the victims who are on trial here, it is Rittenhouse. So you can see why a lot of people are upset about this preliminary ruling and we'll see if the judge revisit it as the trial progresses," he said.
"Once it starts, it starts, right? Once the attorneys use the words, they use the words, they can't put the genie back in the bottle there," Berman said. "And it does set a tone for the entire trial. I know it's Law 101, but if the prosecution feels like the whole trial turned on this pretrial decision and they lose, and Kyle Rittenhouse is acquitted, it is not like they can appeal down the line, correct?"
"That's right," Toobin replied.
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