Accused driver in Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy wants to represent himself. Here’s what that could mean for the upcoming trial.

Jury trial set to begin on Oct. 3

By
Darrell Brooks Jr.
Darrell Brooks Jr. appears in Waukesha County court on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022 in Waukesha, Wis. A judge was set to consider a request Friday to move the trial of a man accused of driving his SUV into a suburban Milwaukee Christmas parade, killing six people and injuring scores more. Attorneys for Darrell Brooks Jr. filed a change-of-venue motion last month asking that the trial either be moved or that jurors be pulled from a different county. Derek Johnson/Waukesha Freeman

Just over a week before the start of the highly anticipated Darrell Brooks Jr. trial, Brooks’ attorney filed a motion to withdraw from the case. It’s the latest development in a whirlwind of activity leading up to the trial, which is currently set to begin on Oct. 3.

Brooks’ attorney Jeremy Perri filed a motion in Waukesha County Circuit Court Thursday requesting that he and assistant public defender Anna Kees be taken off the case, saying Brooks wants to represent himself. It’s up to Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow to approve or deny the motion, which could potentially push back the start of the trial.

The move comes weeks after Brooks withdrew his insanity defense in his not guilty plea, according to online court records. Brooks faces 83 criminal charges, including six felony counts of first-degree intentional homicide after he allegedly drove through the crowd of the Waukesha Christmas parade last year.

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Keith Findley, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Law, said Dorow has some options when it comes to the request. Dorow will likely address the motion during a hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

“The judge could deny the motion, the judge could decide that it’s too close to trial date, although it’s complicated by the fact that an individual has the right to represent himself,” Findley said.

Findley said Dorow could decide that Brooks is not competent enough to represent himself in the case. Dorow could also let Perri serve as his standby counsel, if she grants the motion to withdraw.

“The judge could grant the motion theoretically and let him proceed, and if so the judge could say we’re going with the trial date as scheduled,” Findley said. Dorow could push back the start of the trial as well.

During a hearing Monday, Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper said the prosecution’s case will likely take five to seven days. It’s not yet clear how long the defense will take.

Opper originally planned to bring up to 75 witnesses who shot video of the incident to court to testify. But Monday, it was agreed that those witnesses would not need to come to court to testify that they recorded the video at the parade. That’s a move that could save time during the trial.

The trial will start with jury selection, which could include up to 105 potential jurors a day at the start of the proceedings.

In the aftermath of the parade tragedy, the community rallied together. Over $6 million was raised from across the nation and world for the victims and those who were impacted. The community also saw a visit from First Lady Jill Biden, who met with victims and their families.

Waukesha officials have also decided to move the parade to the week after the Thanksgiving holiday this year so more police and fire department resources are available. Waukesha now plans to hold its Christmas parade on Dec. 4 at 4 p.m. New security perimeters are also being used for all parades and events in Waukesha, including vehicle barriers to outline the perimeter of parades.

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