Darrell Brooks wants to defend self, judge delays decision

Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow delayed a decision on whether Darrell Brooks will represent himself in the Waukesha Christmas parade attack trial, which is currently set to start on Monday, Oct. 3. Dorow gave Brooks until Wednesday to sign paperwork waiving his right to an attorney, telling Brooks, "We are done here today," accusing him of "playing games" in court. The judge said Brooks still needs to prove to the court that he can defend himself.

Tuesday's hearing was the most we've ever heard Brooks speak in court and the longest we've seen him at any hearing without his face covered.

After more than an hour in court arguing why he should represent himself at trial, Judge Dorow granted a 15-minute break so Brooks could speak with the public defenders he wants to fire. 

Darrell Brooks

Earlier in the hearing, Brooks told Dorow he wants to represent himself as a "sovereign citizen."

In an effort to ensure Brooks knows and understands his rights, Dorow explained to Brooks the experience of his attorneys and even questioned them regarding their education and experience. 

Brooks told Dorow, "I agree they have worked tirelessly on a lot of things in this case," but he added that there are "a lot of things" he doesn't understand in the case/proceedings. He told the judge, "I think I will be better served representing myself."

She also asked if he understood if he waived his right to an attorney he would be on his own against a prosecutorial team with a combined 66 years of courtroom experience.

"Doesn't make me flinch a bit," Brooks said.

Darrell Brooks and defense team

Brooks, who attended school through the 11th grade and HSED (Wisconsin's High School Equivalency Program), told Dorow he does "not understand" the 77 counts he's charged with, adding that he "would like to know the nature and cause of the charges." He also asked for copies of case paperwork that has been on file for months.

The charges were read to Brooks, and he was told the homicide counts (six for each person killed) are each punishable by a life term in prison, and Brooks said, "I do not understand the nature and cause of the charges."

Dorow explained to Brooks that because he is not trained in the law, it "will make it hard for you."

Brooks said, "I simply want to represent myself to establish my sovereign citizen."

Dorow told Brooks that in order to allow him to defend himself, he must waive his right to an attorney.

Judge Jennifer Dorow

Brooks laughed when the charges were read to him for a second time. 

During the back and forth, Brooks said he doesn't "understand" how the state can be the plaintiff/prosecutor in this case, with Brooks asking Dorow, "How could the state be the injured party?"

Dorow said she could not give Brooks legal advice and told him he could either have an attorney or waive his right to an attorney and represent himself. 

Dorow told Brooks, "This case has been going on since Nov. 23, and it will keep going whether you understand or not."

After the brief recess, Dorow told Brooks she was unable to make a finding as to whether he has an understanding of what he's being charged with.

Ultimately, Dorow announced she'd be delaying the decision on whether Brooks can defend himself, giving Brooks until 9 a.m. Wednesday to sign paperwork waiving his right to an attorney.  

If Brooks doesn’t turn in that waiver, Dorow said Brooks’ public defenders will stay with the case.

One thing she made very clear is that the trial will not be delayed.

What led to Tuesday's hearing?

On Thursday, Sept. 22, Brooks' attorney filed a motion to withdraw, saying Brooks, charged with 77 counts for the November 2021 attack, desires to represent himself.

On Monday afternoon, Waukesha County District Attorney Sue Opper responded to Brooks' request to defend himself, essentially saying she doesn't object if certain conditions are met, but she does object if it delays the trial. 

Darrell Brooks motions hearing (Sept. 27, 2022)

Opper's letter to Brooks and his attorneys regarding his request to defend himself also mentions Brooks' outburst in court on Aug. 26, when he had to be removed from his hearing, and the hearing on Sept. 9 when Brooks complained of a toothache and asked for an adjournment. Opper wrote: "This record establishes any request to adjourn at this time would be a tactic by the defendant to attempt to manipulate the Court and avoid trial."

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Christmas parade attack

Prosecutors say on Nov. 21, 2021, Brooks met up with his ex-girlfriend in Frame Park, the same woman he is accused of running over with his red SUV earlier in November 2021. She told police they argued in his SUV before he started driving, and he "was driving around with one hand and striking her in the face with his other hand." She eventually got out and called her friends for help. 

Soon after that, according to prosecutors, Brooks drove that red SUV through the parade route, killing Jackson Sparks, 8, Virginia Sorenson, 79, LeAnna Owen, 71, Tamara Durand, 52, Jane Kulich, 52 and Wilhelm Hospel, 81. More than 60 others were hurt. 


Waukesha parade attack victims identified

Brooks was arrested the night of the attack, soon after telling a Waukesha resident that he was homeless and waiting for an Uber. The man was unaware of the events that had occurred and let Brooks into his home.

Brooks entered an insanity plea in June after initially pleading not guilty to the charges in February. He later dropped the insanity plea on Sept. 9. 

If Brooks is found guilty of just one of the intentional homicide charges, he'll face a mandatory life sentence.