WAUKESHA – Almost a year after the Attack on the Waukesha Christmas Parade rocked the city, and after days of disruptions and delays, the trial of the suspect charged in the incident has begun.
After hours of further questioning, including jury instructions, opening statements finally began at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, leading into testimony Friday.
Barely did Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow give Day 4 of The 76-count criminal trial of Darrell Brooks Jr. in session had Brooks began a series of interruptions and protests.
It all erupted as she tried to figure out why he chose to wear his bright orange prison clothes, and not the suit or other street clothes he had access to.
After more than a dozen interruptions, he was again moved to a nearby courtroom.
When he appeared on video from that courtroom 15 minutes later, his shirt was off with his back to the camera. Dorow explained that he also pulled off a shoe, looked like he wanted to throw it away, and then threatened to smash things.
In his submissions, Dorow again explained the legal basis for his removal from court.
She also warned that his conduct, if he continued the “chaos” in front of the jurors, would be at his own risk in his defense.
Despite draft opening statements to lead Thursday’s proceedings, by mid-afternoon neither side had even begun them following Brooks’ exchanges with Dorow.
Waukesha County District Attorney Sue Opper previously said prosecutors will take five to seven days to present their case. It’s unclear how long Brooks would take to present his own defense.
Brooks, 40, faces 76 counts related to the Attack on the Waukesha Christmas Parade on November 21, 2021, which left six people dead and dozens injured.
Opper again asserted that she was confident that Brooks was fit to stand trial and that her behavior should only be viewed as a delaying tactic.
“At no time did anyone in this case have a jurisdictional issue,” Opper said, noting professional and observational clues to his mental state, including monitored phone calls he’s made from the prison showing a lucid state of mind.
“I am deeply confident that he is 100% competent to proceed with a trial,” she said. “We are 100% satisfied that his conduct (is) … deliberate and intentional. … He is attempting to derail these proceedings.”
Dorow agreed, noting four reviewers in July and August who rated him for his insanity defense had raised no question as to its legal competence.
“I agree with your observations,” she said, including Opper’s statements as part of her findings and concluding that her conduct was more a matter of “challenge” than sanity.
Day 3 of the trial:Judge denies Brooks’ request to adjourn trial over COVID-19 protocols
2nd day of trial:A jury has been selected; opening statements scheduled for Thursday
Opper’s motion for reconsideration of his request to deny video recording of victims and witnesses was ultimately denied.
Opper noted that Brooks’ conduct in court only added to their stress and that having their faces captured on cameras would exacerbate their trauma, which has likely increased as the trial unfolds. .
Brooks countered that Dorow’s previous decision on the matter in September should stand.
“It’s all supposed to be public. It’s a public trial,” Brooks said.
“This court has gone to great lengths to keep the names of the victims confidential,” Dorow said. “Furthermore, I have done everything I can to protect their privacy. … The time has come to conduct this lawsuit.”
She noted that the names of the victims will now be on file.
Acknowledging Opper’s concerns about the stress it could cause to those testifying, Dorow said the court had no choice. “I don’t ignore the impact,” she added.
The last order of business before the presentation of opening statements was preliminary instructions for jurors to follow as the case progresses.
Some of the instructions were standard and traditional, such as not discussing the case with anyone or exposing yourself to media reports of the trial or previous coverage of the case.
But Dorow also included each of the 76 counts: six counts of first-degree intentional homicide with use of a dangerous weapon, 61 counts of reckless breach of security with use of a dangerous weapon, six counts of hit-and-run causing death and two counts of jumping bail, all felonies; and two misdemeanor counts of domestic violence-battery, one of which was dismissed.
Each count included an explanation of what jurors should consider when hearing the case.
As instructed by the jury, Brooks offered several new filings, including challenging Dorow’s court restrictions that he said limited his freedom of speech “and the right to be detained in the courtroom.”
“I just want to be treated fairly,” he said.
“Mr. Brooks, you must also treat the court fairly,” Dorow replied, quashing his claim.
One of the side issues throughout the proceedings, as well as recent pre-trial hearings, is his name. This issue was addressed in detail during the hour-long jury trial process, which was broken up by a lunch break.
A meticulously handwritten affidavit objection, drafted by Brooks, attempted to distinguish between the accused person, DARRELL E. BROOKS (in all capitals) and the person acting as attorney, Darrell Edwards Brooks Jr.
DARRELL E. BROOKS “is an entity WITHOUT THE STATE OF WISCONSIN and has no legal personality attached to its name and has no status or interest in this matter in court,” he wrote.
By referring to this affidavit, Brooks wanted the court to acknowledge his objections and explain the basis on which it was struck down.
This story will be updated throughout the day.