WAUKESHA – Darrell Brooks Jr. will stand trial beginning Monday in Waukesha County Circuit Court in connection with six deaths and dozens of injuries in the 2021 Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy.
Brooks, 40, of Milwaukee was identified as the driver of the red SUV that drove past barricades and tore through the downtown Waukesha crowd on Nov.21, following a domestic incident in Frame Park with a woman with whom he has had a relationship.
Here’s what to know about his trial.
What is Brooks charged with?
Brooks is facing 77 charges: six counts of first-degree intentional homicide with use of a dangerous weapon, 61 counts of recklessly endangering safety with use of a dangerous weapon, six counts of hit-and-run involving death and two counts of bail jumping, all felonies; and two counts of misdemeanor domestic abuse-battery.
Lots of witnesses and victims
Counting those in the parade and those watching from the curbs, hundreds were in the vicinity when the SUV struck at least 67 people along the parade route. A lot of them recorded video of the incident on their phones.
The exact number who will be called to the stand wasn’t publicly shared by Waukesha County District Attorney Sue Opper, but it could involve dozens. However, in a recent hearing, Opper indicated her list had been shortened by as many as 75 witnesses.
Still, the prospective witness list was enough for the trial to be scheduled on the court docket for four weeks, Oct. 3-28. While Opper had indicated she anticipated presenting the state’s case in five to seven court days, things have changed since then, potentially slowing the pace.
Brooks is representing himself
In what presiding Judge Jennifer Dorow called a much-later-than 11th-hour move, Brooks opted to waive his right to attorneys and decided to represent himself, his federal and state constitutional right. Dorow reluctantly concurred Wednesday.
What that means for the trial is that his lack of detailed training in court rules and procedures could cause some confusion and extend the trial.
He also mentioned that he has a separate witness list to conduct his defense.
One thing to watch for is arguments and outbursts from Brooks during the trial. He erupted once in late August after losing several key motion decisions, including one arguing for case dismissal. He argued with Dorow during two hearings dealing with his request to represent himself.
Dorow has warned him that any such outbursts can result in her admonishing him before the jury. She has also cautioned Brooks that he will not be able to strategically delay the trial. She remained firm on that point during his Sept. 28 hearing.
What happens if Brooks feels overwhelmed by the legal burden he has taken upon himself? The judge told him it would be “difficult,” but not impossible, for him to add legal representation after the start of the trial.
Brooks seemed to push that point in the Sept. 28 hearing.
How can I watch the trial?
Interest in attending the trial is high — among victims and witnesses, Brooks’ family, the media and the public. Available courtroom seating has been divvied up, leaving little room for people not directly connected to the trial.
But the trial will be livestreamed via Wisconsin Court System’s feed from Dorow’s courtroom. This link, www.wicourts.gov/courts/livestream.htm, takes viewers to the list of circuit court hearings across the state. To access this particular trial, click on the “U-Z” tab, scroll down to “Waukesha County” and select “Branch 2.” (You may have to press the “play” button on the bottom of the screen or keep clicking the refresh button until the stream begins.)
Dorow heself has repeatedly referred to this livestream option, and its feed will be used in separate space set aside for certain participants, including media, to accommodate all those interested in viewing the trial live.
She also ruled that, because this is a public trial, all victims and witnesses (except juveniles) will be fully recognizable in video while they are on the stand. (The jury selection process will not be livestreamed, and even audio recording is restricted.)
Based on recent feeds, it appears that Court TV intends to carry video of the trial as well. However, that video may not be constant, and there was no confirmation of whether Dorow had approved.
The trial begins with jury selection at 8:30 a.m. Monday. That process could take three days, or a jury could be selected in the first day. A total of 315 jurors are available for selection, with 105 per day being interviewed in the process known as voir dire.
Sentencing will happen later
A sentencing hearing would likely be scheduled shortly after the verdict, pending conviction. On the intentional homicide charges, Brooks could face six consecutive life terms, but even if he was only convicted on the 61 counts of recklessly endangering safety, his consecutive prison term could total 7621/2 years, plus another 305 years for the modifier of use of a dangerous weapon.
© Copyright 2022 Journal Sentinel, All Rights Reserved.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.