Darrell Brooks Jr. gives opening statement in Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy trial

Brooks is representing himself in the case

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Darrell Brooks appears in a Waukesha County Circuit Court during the second day of jury selection
Darrell Brooks appears in a Waukesha County Circuit Court during the second day of jury selection in Waukesha, Wis. on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. Brooks, who is representing himself during the trial, is charged with driving into the Waukesha Christmas Parade last year killing six people and injuring dozens more. He faces six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and 71 other counts. Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via AP

Nearly three weeks after the start his trial, Darrell Brooks Jr. finally gave his opening statement to the jury Thursday afternoon.

“I’ve sat back and watched, from countless narratives that’s been put out there, the way this incident has been portrayed at times and finally, everyone is getting the chance to get the full story,” Brooks told the jury, saying only one side has been told.

Brooks, 40, is accused of driving his red Ford Escape through the crowd of the Waukesha Christmas Parade on Nov. 23, 2021, killing six and injuring dozens of others. He is on trial for 76 criminal offenses, and faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of the six first-degree intentional homicide counts with which he is charged.

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Opening statements from the defense typically come at the start of a trial. But nothing has been typical about these court proceedings. Brooks has been, at his own request, representing himself without the help of a defense attorney.

On the first day of the trial, when defense opening statements would typically follow those of the prosecution, the judge allowed Brooks to delay his opening statements when he said he was not prepared. Throughout the trial, Brooks’ conduct has been unpredictable and has led to multiple delays. He’s also been physically removed from the courtroom numerous times by Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow as he’s interrupted her and objected to moves made by the prosecution.

Speaking to the jury Thursday, Brooks said his actions on the day of the parade were not intentional.

“This incident was not planned, this incident was not intentional and this incident was never even thought about,” he said.

During his 15-minute opening statement, Brooks told the jury he would not argue the facts of the incident, which he called “very tragic.”

But it’s still not clear what Brooks’ defense will be.

Prosecutors rested their case Thursday morning after questioning over 30 witnesses, including police officers, parade goers, victims, family members of victims and nearby residents who encountered Brooks on the day of the parade.

They’ve shown several videos of Brooks allegedly driving through the crowd, as they’ve presented their timeline to the jury. That timeline begins with a fight between Brooks’ ex-girlfriend and ends with Brooks being taken into custody outside a home near the parade route.

On Thursday, the state showed a music video to the jury in which Brooks appears next to his red Ford Escape. The jury also viewed the vehicle in person on Wednesday.

On Monday, Waukesha resident Daniel Rider testified that Brooks entered Rider’s home just minutes after the parade incident. Rider told the jury Brooks said he was homeless and was waiting for a Lyft ride. The encounter was captured by Rider’s Ring doorbell camera. It was outside Rider’s home that Brooks was arrested.

Waukesha County District Attorney Sue Opper has said she believes he’s attempting to delay the trial.

Brooks has objected to the majority of the questions from the state to witnesses. He’s also questioned the jurisdiction of the court, asked for a dismissal and said he plans to appeal being removed from the court by Dorow.

“I don’t like your tone and the way you’re talking to me,” Brooks told Dorow during a heated exchange Thursday morning.

“I don’t care if you don’t like my tone. You have been pushing my buttons all day, throughout this entire trial and I have shown the upmost of respect for you and I don’t appreciate you impugning the integrity of this court,” Dorow replied.

It’s not clear yet how long Brooks will take to present his defense.

Those killed in the November 2021 incident include:

  • Virginia Sorenson, 79 years old.
  • LeAnna Owen, 71 years old.
  • Tamara Durand, 52 years old.
  • Jane Kulich, 52 years old.
  • Wilhelm Hospel, 81 years old.
  • Jackson Sparks, 8 years old.
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