A jury found Darrell Brooks Jr. guilty of six counts of first-degree homicide and 70 more charges on Wednesday, nearly a year after he killed six and injured dozens more after driving into the Waukesha Christmas Parade.
The jury delivered their decision following 90 minutes of deliberation on Tuesday, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Judge Jennifer Dorow read out guilty verdicts on all 76 charges Wednesday morning, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide. Brooks initially pleaded not guilty because of insanity, but later withdrew this plea in favor of a not guilty plea to all of the charges.
Brooks drove a red SUV into the crowd at the 2021 Waukesha Christmas Parade in late November. There were six fatalities, including one child and three members of the “Milwaukee Dancing Grannies.” An additional 61 people were injured.
Charges slightly changed over time, with Brooks initially facing only five counts of intentional homicide. The sixth charge was added following the death of eight-year-old Jason Sparks a few days after the parade.
An additional 61 charges of reckless endangerment were added earlier this year, which brought the total at one point to 83 charges.
However, six charges were removed in pretrial after Dorow ruled Brooks could not face charges for both intentional homicide as well as homicide by vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance, according to the Journal Sentinel One additional charge for domestic violence against his ex-girlfriend was dismissed by prosecutors due to a lack of physical injury.
A contentious trial
The four-week trial gathered heightened attention on social media because of Brooks’ decision to represent himself in trial. His behavior while representing himself led to unusual open arguments between Brooks and Dorow. It got to a point where Dorow had to move Brooks to a different nearby courtroom on multiple occasions, where he could attend virtually and be muted, if necessary.
At one point, Dorow ordered Brooks to stop badgering witnesses with “eye rolling, by pursing your lips, by making facial movements regarding her answers,” according to USA Today.
Brooks even planned to ask the jury to exercise “jury nullification,” according to FOX 6 News, an act where the jury believes a defendant broke the law but returns a non-guilty verdict regardless of the evidence presented in court.
Though jury nullification is an implicit power jurors hold, defense parties are not allowed to make arguments based on jury nullification, according to Cornell Law School.
Yet, in his closing statement, Brooks said the jury “ should be informed that [they] have the power to nullify any law that [they] don’t agree with,” FOX 6 News reported. An objection from District Attorney Sue Opper was sustained, and the jury was instructed to disregard the statement.
Brooks has not indicated if he plans to appeal Wednesday’s decision. However, legal experts told the Associated Press they predict Brooks’ open defiance and provocations of Judge Darrow will likely not help if he chooses to appeal the case.
Brooks asked for a mistrial Wednesday following a Reddit post in which a user identifying as a juror in the case claimed Judge Dorow was biased against Brooks and prohibited him from presenting his case, according to the Waukesha County Freeman. The user later clarified their post was intended as a prank.
The City of Waukesha planned two memorials to honor those killed and injured in the attack. This year’s parade, and likely all future parades, will also take place two weeks later to allow for a better allotment of first responders, who won’t have to simultaneously deal with Thanksgiving weekend schedule conflicts.
Ian Wilder is a current features writer and former state politics reporter for The Daily Cardinal. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.