Darrell Brooks trial: Why insanity plea was dropped

Darrell Brooks, 40, on trial starting Monday, Oct. 3 for the November 2021 Waukesha Christmas parade attack that killed six and injured more than 60, withdrew his insanity plea on Sept. 9.

Appearing in Waukesha County court before Judge Jennifer Dorow for a jury status hearing, Brooks changed his plea from not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Brooks had entered the insanity plea in June. 

Brooks told the court, "I have my own reasons why." He did not offer further explanation into those reasons.  

Darrell Brooks appears in court Sept. 9 

That day in court, Brooks was scheduled for a jury status hearing to get things in line ahead of his October trial. The Sept. 9 hearing was pushed back to Sept. 19 after defense attorneys said Brooks had an infected tooth.

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"I just want to ensure this is not a delay tactic, to be very blunt with the court," said Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper.

"To your knowledge, is the tooth abscess being addressed appropriately by the jail?" Judge Dorow asked.

"I was informed it’s been diagnosed as a tooth abscess," answered Defense Attorney Jeremy Perri.

Darrell Brooks Jr.

This status hearing was to get details in order ahead of the October trial, such as what evidence can be presented – Brooks' criminal history, types of questions attorneys can ask jurors and how and where jurors can view evidence, like the SUV that went through the parade route.

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Judge Dorow agreed to push back the hearing despite an already packed schedule.

This delay came after Brooks had an outburst in court Aug. 26, and he was removed from the courtroom. 


Waukesha parade attack victims 

Brooks is charged with 77 counts connected to the November 2021 Waukesha parade attack, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide. One homicide conviction would put him behind bars for life.

Darrell Brooks is defending himself in the trial after Judge Dorow ruled he's competent to do so on Wednesday, Sept. 28. This, after Brooks' attorneys filed a motion to withdraw, telling the court Brooks desired to represent himself. Two afternoons worth of hearings were held on that motion, during which Dorow questioned Brooks as to whether he understands the charges filed against him in this case and the penalties associated with them.  

During those hearings, Dorow said she reviewed evaluations four psychologists conducted of Brooks and agreed with their findings that while he has a personality disorder and is disruptive, he is intelligent and articulate enough to defend himself. 

Waukesha County District Attorney Sue Opper noted that they reviewed 10 prior Wisconsin cases against Brooks and they "could not find, on any occasion, where competency was ever raised."

If the insanity plea wasn't dropped, Brooks would have been examined by a doctor or doctors to see whether the insanity plea could be supported. There would then be two phases of the trial; one phase to determine whether he's not guilty or guilty but not guilty due to mental disease/defect and the second phase to determine whether he would be sent to prison or a mental health facility.