Darrell Brooks trial: Closing arguments completed, jury begins deliberations

Prosecutors and Darrell Brooks Jr. gave closing arguments Tuesday, and the case went to the jury

By
Defendant Darrell Brooks Jr., representing himself, gets agitated during his trial.
Defendant Darrell Brooks, representing himself, gets agitated during his trial while looking for documents in court, Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, in Waukesha, Wis. Brooks is on trial for homicide and reckless endangerment where six people were killed and dozens of others injured when he allegedly drove an SUV through a Christmas parade. Angela Peterson/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP Photos

The fate of Darrell Brooks Jr. is now in the hands of the jury.

After a three-week-long trial marked by tumult and repeated disruptions by Brooks, both sides gave closing arguments Tuesday, and the judge read lengthy jury instructions. Jurors began deliberations around 6:30 p.m., and retired for the night after 8 p.m. They’ll resume deliberations Wednesday morning.

Brooks is accused of killing six people and injuring dozens more when he drove through the Waukesha Christmas parade in 2021. He faces 76 criminal charges, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide. He elected to represent himself in the trial, and has been repeatedly removed from the courtroom for disruptions throughout the proceedings.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

During her closing argument Tuesday afternoon, Waukesha County District Attorney Sue Opper played an edited video which showed the carnage from the aftermath of the incident. Spectators in the courtroom could be heard crying as the video played.

“It’s time for Darrell Brooks to stop running. It’s time for him to stop lying. It’s time for him to be held accountable for his actions,” Opper told the jury. “Darrell Brooks, cowardly, ran his way through this parade, violently killing and injuring so many people.”

She asked the jury to “add up the evidence” and return guilty verdicts on all counts against Brooks. She noted that Brooks could have stopped driving at any time throughout the incident, and that he was honking his horn while driving, meaning he could see what was in front of him.

“There’s overwhelming evidence that this was an intentional act by Darrell Brooks and an act of utter disregard for human life,” Opper said. “He plowed through 68 different people. … He kept going until he got to the end and there were no more bodies to be hit.”

Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper appears in Waukesha County Circuit Court
Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper appears in Waukesha County Circuit Court during the second day of jury selection for the Darrell Brooks trial in Waukesha 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

Opper also told the jury they must only consider what happened on Nov. 21, 2021; the day of the incident.

“That, and only that, should be your sole topic of discussion,” Opper said.

Prosecutors rested their case last week 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.

Brooks nearly forfeited his right to give his closing argument, after he twice defied the judge’s order and sought to tell the jury that they could nullify the case. Jury nullification is when jurors return a verdict of not guilty even when they believe the defendant was guilty of the crime.

“You have absolutely no right to raise that in front of the jury,” Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow told Brooks Tuesday.

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

Instead, in a rambling and self-pitying closing statement, Brooks said the act wasn’t intentional. He said he wouldn’t argue the facts of the case.

“I’m not going to waste your time doing that,” Brooks said.

Brooks also said the incident has affected him and his family greatly. He said “both sides” were suffering. He also spoke about his Christian faith for several minutes.

“A lot of lives were changed that day, mine included. God’s way is not our own,” Brooks said.

He pleaded with the jury to “make the right decision.”

Darrell Brooks Jr. in court
Darrell Brooks Jr., left, sits next to his attorneys during a hearing Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Wisconsin Court System 

The trial began Oct. 3. In the last few weeks, Brooks continued to question the jurisdiction of the court, stated he doesn’t want to be recognized by his name and claimed he’s a “sovereign citizen,” part of a fringe, discredited legal theory that holds that he is not bound by U.S. law. He has also continued to object to the majority of questions to witnesses from the Waukesha County District Attorney’s Office.

Brooks has also questioned how the state can be a plaintiff in the case, given that the state isn’t a person.

But Dorow has said none of those claims have any basis in fact or law. She’s also cited the U.S. Supreme Court case Illinois v. Allen in her decision to remove Brooks from the courtroom. The court held that a judge may remove a defendant who is being disruptive and interrupting the judge if the defendant is given proper warning.

Dorow and Opper have also said they believe Brooks is trying to delay the hearings, while Dorow added Brooks is attempting to make a mockery of the courtroom.

“I’ve presided over dozens and dozens of cases that have gone to trial,” Dorow said last week. “To say that this has been the most challenging of my career would be an understatement.”

The jury will be sequestered when the closing arguments are finished.

Closing statements cap trial’s lengthy evidence display

[[{“fid”:”1788876″,”view_mode”:”full_width”,”fields”:{“format”:”full_width”,”alignment”:””,”field_image_caption[und][0][value]”:”%3Cp%3EWaukesha%20County%20Circuit%20Court%20Judge%20Jennifer%20Dorow%20warns%20Darrell%20Brooks%20not%20to%20interrupt%20as%20he%20appears%20in%20a%20Waukesha%20County%20Circuit%20Court%20during%20the%20second%20day%20of%20jury%20selection%20in%20Waukesha%2C%20Wis.%20on%20Tuesday%2C%20Oct.%204%2C%202022.%20Brooks%2C%20who%20is%20representing%20himself%20during%20the%20trial%2C%20is%20charged%20with%26nbsp%3Bdriving%20into%20the%26nbsp%3BWaukesha%20Christmas%20Parade%26nbsp%3Blast%20year%20killing%20six%20people%20and%20injuring%20dozens%20more.%20He%20faces%20six%20counts%26nbsp%3Bof%20first-degree%20intentional%20homicide%20and%2071%20other%20counts.%20%3Cem%3EMike%20De%20Sisti%2FMilwaukee%20Journal%20Sentinel%20via%20AP%3C%2Fem%3E%3C%2Fp%3E%0A”,”field_image_caption[und][0][format]”:”full_html”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:”Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow warns Darrell Brooks not to interrupt”,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:”Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow warns Darrell Brooks not to interrupt”},”type”:”media”,”field_deltas”:{“4”:{“format”:”full_width”,”alignment”:””,”field_image_caption[und][0][value]”:”%3Cp%3EWaukesha%20County%20Circuit%20Court%20Judge%20Jennifer%20Dorow%20warns%20Darrell%20Brooks%20not%20to%20interrupt%20as%20he%20appears%20in%20a%20Waukesha%20County%20Circuit%20Court%20during%20the%20second%20day%20of%20jury%20selection%20in%20Waukesha%2C%20Wis.%20on%20Tuesday%2C%20Oct.%204%2C%202022.%20Brooks%2C%20who%20is%20representing%20himself%20during%20the%20trial%2C%20is%20charged%20with%26nbsp%3Bdriving%20into%20the%26nbsp%3BWaukesha%20Christmas%20Parade%26nbsp%3Blast%20year%20killing%20six%20people%20and%20injuring%20dozens%20more.%20He%20faces%20six%20counts%26nbsp%3Bof%20first-degree%20intentional%20homicide%20and%2071%20other%20counts.%20%3Cem%3EMike%20De%20Sisti%2FMilwaukee%20Journal%20Sentinel%20via%20AP%3C%2Fem%3E%3C%2Fp%3E%0A”,”field_image_caption[und][0][format]”:”full_html”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:”Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow warns Darrell Brooks not to interrupt”,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:”Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow warns Darrell Brooks not to interrupt”}},”link_text”:false,”attributes”:{“alt”:”Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow warns Darrell Brooks not to interrupt”,”title”:”Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow warns Darrell Brooks not to interrupt”,”class”:”media-element file-full-width”,”data-delta”:”4″}}]]

During the trial, the state showed several videos of Brooks allegedly driving through the crowd. The state’s timeline of events begins with a fight between Brooks and his ex-girlfriend and ends with Brooks being taken into custody outside a home near the parade route.

Waukesha police detective Thomas Casey testified for the state. He was hit by Brooks’ vehicle and was close enough to pound on its hood to try and stop it. He got a look at the driver as he drove by him; he said he was “1,000 percent” certain it was Brooks.

Three members of the community dance group the Dancing Grannies died from injuries. Laura Thein, a member of the group, told the court the vehicle missed hitting her by a few feet. She testified that she never saw the vehicle slow down as it hit some of her friends in the Milwaukee-based group.

“I looked on the road and all I seen were bodies,” Thein said. “I thought I was in a war.”

Holly Berg also attended the parade. She testified that she saw the vehicle veer in and out of the street. She originally thought the vehicle was part of the parade.

“I saw it hit the group and then people fly and there was just chaos in the street,” Berg said.

The state showed a music video to the jury in which Brooks appears next to his red Ford Escape, the same vehicle they say he drove that day. The jury also viewed the vehicle in person.

A crowd can be seen behind a woman holding a candle at night.
Jennifer Martinez of Waukesha, Wis., lights a candle during a community vigil Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, at Cutler Park in Waukesha, Wis. Martinez’s family member present at the Christmas parade was able to leave unharmed. “It brings me joy to see everybody here,” she said referring to the crowd present at the vigil. Angela Major/WPR

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. Brooks was arrested outside Rider’s home.

Dorow made the decision to end the evidentiary portion of the trial on Monday because of Brooks’ repeated outbursts in court and his refusal to answer questions about his plans to call any additional witnesses.

“I specifically found that you forfeited your right to present any further evidence or testimony when you failed to answer my questions regarding the calling of witnesses, and then I also declared that you forfeited your right to testify,” Dorow told Brooks Monday.

Those killed in the November 2021 incident were:

  • 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
You make WPR possible! WPR t-shirt $12/month. Give now.

Trustworthy news, world-class music and Wisconsin stories … made possible by people like you.