WAUKESHA – Nearly a year after a devastating attack on a sacred city tradition, a jury has convicted Darrell Brooks Jr. of driving through the 2021 Christmas parade that killed six people and injured dozens more. The victims ranged in age from 8 to 81.
It was impounded after about 90 minutes of deliberation on Tuesday night, and it delivered a verdict around 9.45am on Wednesday, the jury told the court. Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow began reading them by 11 a.m., starting with first-degree manslaughter. She spent about 25 minutes reading the guilty verdicts on all 76 charges.
As the judge read out, relatives of slain Dancing Granny member Virginia Sorenson placed a small container of her ashes on the bar that separates the gallery from the rest of the courtroom.
Outside the courtroom, people in blue Waukesha Strong sweatshirts gathered before the sentencing, bowing their heads in silent prayer.
Brooks, 40, who represented himself at the trial, did not respond much when the verdict was read. He buried his head most of the time with his hands clasped and his elbows on the table.
When she read the verdict, Doro thanked and forgave the jury, then scheduled a hearing on Monday to discuss when sentencing would be scheduled. She said she would allow victims who wish to make an impact statement via Zoom to use the technology.
Waukesha city officials welcomed the end of the trial. “I am delighted that the jury found the defendant guilty on all counts,” said Mayor Sean Reilly. “We can now refocus on moving forward as a community and continuing the recovery process.”
“Families of victims, as well as our first responders, continue to deal with the lasting effects of the horrors of the day,” said Police Chief Dan Thompson. “We appreciate the support from around the world, and we ask that you continue to involve all involved in your praying man.
A statement from the city read in part: “As a community, we still have a long way to go and are filled with difficult days. This is especially true as we approach the one-year anniversary of the tragedy. However, as we have experienced in the past One year, we know that when we stand together, we will keep Waukesha strong.”
Lynn Garfield, owner of Almonte Gallery in downtown Waukesha, was standing in her store when Brooks drove into Dancing Granny. “It’s a horrible thing,” said Garfield, who watched the verdict live on Wednesday.
“I don’t think he can do anything but guilty,” she said. She said it was difficult to bring the focus back to Waukesha, but said it was important the trial took place here. “I want those who have experienced it to be the ones to judge it.”
Joette Barta is watching the parade at her company, Nice Ash Cigar Bar. The next day, she recalled an eerie mood, when the streets were littered with chairs, hats and gloves and people fled terror. She was troubled that Brooks never apologized or showed genuine remorse. She was also frustrated by his behavior at the trial.
“I’m just annoyed at the time, energy and money wasted,” Balta said. “I know you have to give him a fair trial, but will having him represent himself lead to more than usual?”
Laurie Hogeland knew several families who lost loved ones in the attack. She was outside the courthouse after the verdict was read. “Their lives mattered. Justice was served,” she said.
District Attorney Sue Opper, other officials and the victim held a news conference after the sentencing. She said Brooks “has been held accountable” satisfied, but said there was “a lot of recovery ahead”.
Six people were killed and at least 61 others injured when a red Ford Escape SUV Brooks was driving tore apart during a holiday parade on Nov. 11. February 21, 2021. The attack left an atmosphere of what police called “chaos”, with authorities and others scrambling across four blocks to help victims while also searching for the driver.
Brooks’ trial represented the end of a lengthy legal process that included dramatic changes, starting with charges filed two days after the march, to a pretrial hearing days before the trial began. The four-week trial was filled with distractions and delays by Brooks, who decided days before the proceedings began that he would represent himself.
Four-week trials are often chaotic
The trial began in October. 3. It was never a smooth process and there were frequent disputes between Brooks and Doro.
Much of the disagreement stemmed from Brooks’ decision to forgo his right to have a lawyer and represent himself, something Doro warned before trial that he would do so “at his own risk,” noting that he would have to comply with unfamiliar laws and court procedures.
But the spat also has to do with Brooks’ repeated attempts to present himself as a “sovereign” citizen, a legal theory that Doro and prosecutors have repeatedly called “completely debunked” in which defendants challenge the court’s jurisdiction. Even after Doro’s written decision on the court’s jurisdiction, Brooks continued to demand “evidence” of jurisdiction.
Due to the sometimes heated arguments with Brooks, Doro took him to the adjacent courtroom several times, usually to allow her to finish presenting her findings without being interrupted. Dorow said today’s technology gave her the option to have him participate remotely without violating his right to be present during the proceedings.
It’s not known if that was one of the issues Brooks raised on appeal.
Fees change over time
Brooks is charged with six counts of first-degree manslaughter, 61 counts of reckless endangerment of safety, six counts of hit-and-run causing death, two counts of bail, all felonies related to the parade tragedy, and one count of misdemeanor battery.
But the allegations didn’t come all at once. Originally, Brooks faced five homicides, a sixth was added after the death of 8-year-old Jackson Sparks in Mukwonago just days after the march. Charges spiked in mid-January when 61 reckless endangerment charges were added. At one point, he faced 83 charges.
Six charges were dropped in pretrial proceedings after Doro agreed that Brooks could not be charged with manslaughter and vehicular homicide while under the influence of a controlled substance.
Prosecutors dismissed another charge, explaining in court that one of two domestic violence charges involving his ex-girlfriend may have been dismissed because there were no obvious signs of bodily harm.
There are 76 charges remaining, all of which are required to be considered individually by the jury during deliberations.
Almost a year later to feel the effect
Much has changed since the parade in 2021.
A major overhaul is the implementation of aggressive security measures aimed at preventing any unauthorized vehicles from entering future parades. Much of this is done with portable barriers designed to rip the undersides of any vehicles that pass through them. Additionally, police now routinely establish a perimeter to clear vehicles before any incident occurs.
The 2022 Waukesha Christmas Parade will take place in two weeks, according to city officials, and the program is expected to continue every year. That date, the first Sunday in December, will partially house police and other key workers who will no longer have to contend with the Thanksgiving week holiday schedule that would make emergency response more difficult.
By 2023, the city also expects to have two monuments—one at the five-point intersection on Main Street and another at Grede Park near Wisconsin Avenue near the end of the parade route—to honor and honor those affected by the parade. people.
LaRisa Lynch, Quinn Clark, and Bruce Vielmetti of Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.
Please contact Jim Riccioli at (262) 446-6635 or email firstname.lastname@example.org him on twitter @jariccioli.