WAUKESHA — Nearly a year after a devastating attack on a sacred city tradition, a jury has convicted Darrell Brooks Jr. of killing six and injuring dozens while crossing the 2021 Christmas Parade.
After being sequestered Tuesday evening after approximately 90 minutes of deliberation, thThe jury announced it had verdicts early Wednesday. Judge Jennifer Dorow began reading them shortly before 11 a.m., starting with the first-degree intentional homicide charges. It took him about 25 minutes to read the guilty verdicts on the 76 counts.
Outside the courtroom, people wearing blue Waukesha Strong sweatshirts had gathered before the verdicts were announced, their heads bowed in silent prayer.
Brooks, 40, who had represented himself at trial, did not react much to the reading of the verdicts. He mostly put his head in his clasped hands, with his elbows on the table.
When she finished reading the verdicts, Dorow thanked and excused the jury, then scheduled a hearing for Monday to discuss the timing of sentencing. She said she would allow victims who wish to make impact statements via Zoom to use this technology.
Dorow granted District Attorney Sue Opper’s request for judgment on the verdicts. When asked if he has any motions, Brooks asked, “What are judgments?”
Six people died and at least 61 others were injured when a red Ford Escape SUV driven by Brooks drove through the holiday parade trial on Nov. 21, 2021. The attack left in its wake what police called a “chaotic” atmosphere as authorities and others rushed to aid victims on a four-block stretch while searching for the driver.
Brooks’ trial represented the end of a long court process that included dramatic changes, beginning with charges filed two days after the parade and continuing with preliminary hearings days before trial. The four-week trial was filled with disruption and delays from Brooks, who decided just days before the start of the proceedings that he would represent himself.
A four-week trial was often chaotic
The trial, which began Oct. 3, was never a smooth process, frequently breaking down into arguments between Brooks and Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow.
Most of the disagreements stemmed from Brooks’ decision to waive their right to a lawyer and represent themselveswhich Dorow had warned before the trial that he would do “at (his) own risk”, noting that he would have to abide by unknown laws and legal process.
But the feuds were also tied to Brooks’ repeated attempts to portray himself as a “sovereign” citizen, which Dorow and prosecutors have repeatedly called a “completely debunked” theory in which defendants challenge the courts’ jurisdiction. Even after Dorow issued a written ruling on the court’s jurisdiction, Brooks continued to ask for “proof” of jurisdiction.
Following the sometimes heated arguments with Brooks, Dorow repeatedly took him to an adjacent courtroom, usually to allow him to finish stating his findings for the record without interruption. Dorow said today’s technology gives her the ability to engage him remotely without violating his right to be present during proceedings.
It’s unclear if this is one of the issues Brooks will raise on appeal.
Fees have changed over time
streams was charged with six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, 61 counts of recklessly endangering security, six counts of hit-and-run causing death, two counts of jumping bail, all felonies related to the parade tragedy and one misdemeanor battery.
But these accusations did not come suddenly. Brooks initially faced five counts of homicide, a sixth was added following the death of 8-year-old Jackson Sparks of Mukwonago several days after the parade. The charges exploded in mid-January, when the 61 charges of reckless endangerment were added. At one point, he faced 83 charges.
Six charges were eliminated in pre-trial proceedings after Dorow’s agreement, Brooks could not be charged with both intentional homicide and vehicular homicide under the influence of a controlled substance.
Another charge was dismissed by prosecutors, who explained in court that one of two domestic violence charges involving his ex-girlfriend may not be pursued in the absence of any obvious signs of physical injury. .
That left 76 counts, all of which the jury had to consider individually during their deliberations.
Effects felt almost a year later
A lot has changed since the 2021 parade.
A major adjustment was the implementation of aggressive security measures designed to keep unauthorized vehicles away from future parades. Most of this was accomplished with portable barriers designed to rip the underside of any vehicle that crosses them. In addition, the police now regularly create a perimeter cleared of vehicles before any event.
The 2022 Waukesha Christmas Parade will be held two weeks later, a plan that is expected to continue every year, according to city officials. The date, the first Sunday in December, will partly accommodate police and other essential personnel, who will no longer have to struggle with Thanksgiving week holiday schedules that can make emergency response more difficult. emergency.
In 2023, the city also plans two landmarks – one along Main Street at the Five Points intersection and the other in Grede Park near Wisconsin Avenue near the end of the parade route – to honor and remember the victims of the parade.