The judge presiding over the double homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse has suggested that prosecutors need to bring an expert witness to testify how the pinch to zoom feature works on an iPad.
Judge Bruce Schroeder’s bizarre debate appeared to legitimise a claim from defence attorneys that enlarging the screen uses “logarithms” to add pixels, and forced the prosecution to prove that it does not.
Prosecutors intended to show footage on 10 November of Mr Rittenhouse fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum, one of two men killed by Mr Rittenhouse on 25 August 2020 in the aftermath of protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Defence attorney Mark Richards, who said he does not know anything about the technology “at all”, claimed that artificial intelligence inside Apple software on the device would distort the zoomed-in image by “creating what it thinks is there, not what necessarily is there.”
The objection set off a 10-minute debate. Judge Schroeder – who held his own smartphone on the bench earlier on Wednesday, with a ringtone that appeared to be Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” – determined that it would be “high risk” to show the video in court without first disproving the claims from the defence.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger argued that pinch zooming on iPads, iPhones and similar devices is a “common part of everyday life”, something all jurors would understand, and would not diminish the video or otherwise manipulate the image on the screen.
Judge Schroeder – who asked whether the video will be “in its virginal state” – dismissed comparisons to using a magnifying glass. “I don’t believe that,” he said.
Mr Richards, appearing satisfied with the judge’s objections, asked Mr Binger what operating system the iPad used. Mr Binger said he did not know off the top of his head.
“Thank you!” Mr Richards responded, as if proving a point.
“It’s an iPad, Mark,” Mr Binger replied.
The tense exchange followed a chaotic day in court on 10 November, as the judge repeatedly admonished the prosecution, and dismissed the jury on two occasions to criticise Mr Binger’s line of questioning.
Mr Rittenhouse appeared on the witness stand on Wednesday, publicly detailing the night of the shootings for the first time as his attorneys sought to frame his actions as self-defence against a violent mob. Prosecutors have argued that Mr Rittenhouse – armed with an AR-15-style rifle that night – intentionally used deadly force as he fired at several men, ultimately killing two men and injuring another.
He is charged with five felonies, including first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and two counts of recklessly endangering safety in the first degree. He also was charged with possession of a dangerous weapon under the age of 18, a misdemeanor. He has pleaded not guilty.