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Theodore Edgecomb supporters protest after judge rules word 'victim' can be used in trial

Posted at 4:56 PM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 18:42:31-05

MILWAUKEE — Supporters of Theodore Edgecomb are protesting a decision this week by the judge in his trial.

On Monday, Judge David Borowski denied a defense motion asking him to limit the use of words such as "victim" and "crime scene" during the trial.

"We want justice for Theodore Edgecomb and we want Judge Borowski to be removed," said Elizabeth Brown of Justice Wisconsin.

Brown, who is an advocate for the Edgecomb family, and several other local activists met to share their concerns about the judge.

Edgecomb's defense argues that the man he shot and killed, immigration attorney Jason Cleereman, was an aggressor and a term like "victim" could prejudice the jury.

In September 2020, according to investigators, Edgecomb shot and killed Cleereman after the two men had an altercation.

Edgecomb doesn't deny shooting Cleereman, but does claim self-defense.

Prosecutors have indicated they plan to show surveillance video of Edgecomb punching Cleereman during this encounter.

The defense is also relying on surveillance video, which they say shows the Cleereman's follow Edgecomb in their car before Jason Cleereman gets out of the car and approaches Edgecomb.

Cleereman's family says Edgecomb was the aggressor, and prosecutors say his decision to flee the state after the shooting shows guilt.

To the issue of who can be called a victim, the judges have discretion in this state over the use of that word.

"I think Judge Borowski is ruling consistent with what most judges are ruling," said Jonathan Lavoy, a criminal defense attorney with Kim and Lavoy. "But I think the defense has a good point that the term victim is really improper and shouldn't be used until after a conviction has been received by the court."

Judge Borowski did say he may push back on the prosecution if they use the word victim too much.

However, Edgecomb's supporters point to the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse and how Judge Bruce Schroeder prevented prosecutors from describing the men Rittenhouse shot as victims.

"That was fairly unique. I think most are allowing the prosecution to use that term," said Lavoy.

Lavoy says he believes this issue — of how and if "victim" is used during a trial — will eventually be appealed and a higher court will make a decision.

Jury selection begins in Edgecomb's trial on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

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