Waukesha parade defendant found guilty

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WAUKESHA, Wis. — Darrell Brooks Jr. was convicted on all 76 charges Wednesday for his role in the six deaths and dozens of injuries in the 2021 Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy, where he drove an SUV through crowds of people celebrating a hallowed city tradition.

After being sequestered Tuesday night, the jury announced it had verdicts early Wednesday. It took the jury a little over three hours to find Darrell Brooks guilty of all charges, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, which carry mandatory life in prison terms.

Brooks looked down, hid his face between his hands and rested on his forehead as the verdict was being read. 

Six people died and at least another 61 others were injured when a red Ford Blazer SUV driven by Brooks tore through the holiday parade trial on Nov. 21, 2021. Authorities and others scrambled to help victims over a four-block stretch while at the same time beginning the search for the driver.

The four-week long trial was replete with disruptions and delays from Brooks, who decided to represent himself less than a week before the trial’s first day.

Brooks’ trial represented the end of a long legal process that included dramatic shifts, beginning with charges filed two days after the parade and continuing with pretrial hearings just days before the trial. Among the changes were two changes in Brooks’ plea of not guilty, to not guilty by reason or mental disease or defect (also known as an insanity defense) and then a withdrawal of that defense strategy.

Outside of the courtroom, people wearing in blue Waukesha Strong sweatshirts had gathered ahead of the verdicts announcements, heads bowed in silent prayer. 

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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.

Much of the disagreements stemmed from Brooks’ decision to waive his right to an attorney and represent himself, which Dorow had warned in advance of the trial that he would do “at (his) own peril,” noting he would have to abide by unfamiliar laws and court processes.

But the tussles were also tied to Brooks’ repeated attempts to present himself as a “sovereign” citizen, which Dorow and prosecutors repeatedly called a “thoroughly debunked” theory in which defendants challenge the jurisdiction of the courts. Even after Dorow issued a written ruling on the court’s jurisdiction, Brooks continued to ask for “proof” of jurisdiction.

As a result of the sometimes heated arguments with Brooks, Dorow on several occasions removed him to an adjacent courtroom, usually to allow her to finish stating her findings for the record without interruption. Dorow said today’s technology afforded her an option to have him participate remotely without violating his right to be present during proceedings.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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