WAUKESHA, Wis. — Jurors began deliberating Tuesday the fate of the man charged with driving through a 2021 Christmas parade, killing six people and injuring dozens of others.
The jury was given the case after both sides delivered closing arguments Tuesday. The panel deliberated for less than two hours before breaking for the evening. Jurors will reconvene Wednesday morning and consider whether Darrell Brooks Jr. should be convicted of the attack. The trial has been mired with constant distractions, loud outbursts and an array of objections as Brooks acts as his own defense attorney, issues that plagued proceedings Tuesday.
Brooks faces six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, 61 counts of recklessly endangering safety, six counts of hit-and-run causing death and two counts of bail jumping, and one count of misdemeanor battery. If convicted on intentional homicide charges, Brooks faces mandatory life in prison.
In their closing arguments, prosecutors painted Brooks as someone filled with rage and who showed no remorse. They emphasized Brooks’ intentions, which they said were abundantly clear as he drove through the parade on Nov. 21, 2021, in downtown Waukesha. Brooks, acting as his own attorney, asked jurors to dismiss the charges and claimed he never intended to hurt anyone.
Prosecutors closing argument: Darrell Brooks’ actions were ‘intentional’
Waukesha County District Attorney Sue Opper drove home one central point in her closing remarks: Brooks was not a victim of circumstances or any kind of victim at all. He intentionally mowed down innocents when he plowed through the crowd, never stopping at all.
Opper pointed to extensive testimony, including videos appearing to show the red SUV Brooks was accused of driving. One video showed the SUV driving directly at the parade participants relentlessly. “He never stopped. Never,” Opper said.
Reading the names of the six fatal victims, Opper noted that they all “lost their lives because of the conduct of Darrell Brooks.” Pointing to the 61 victims tied to the reckless endangerment charges, she noted prosecutors only selected those who were physically injured from a larger pool of victims who were also at risk.
“One of the big things, in this case, was (people wondering) why did this happen? I can’t look into someone’s mind,” she said. “What I can tell you is his intention,” noting how easily he could have prevented the tragedy by simply stopping the red Ford Escape.
Brooks ignored barricades, police officers trying to stop his vehicle, the dense crowd ahead of him, and the people he hit. “It was intentional,” Opper said.
Then he tried to run away to escape accountability, fabricating a story about how he was running away from a fight when he was later discovered by police outside a home near the parade, she added, noting his attempt to “change his appearance” by shedding his clothes and other identifying elements from the parade and “ditch” his vehicle.
Darrell Brooks says his ‘conscience is clear’ in closing argument
The trial has been mired with constant distraction, loud outbursts, and an array of objections as Brooks attempted to defend himself. The frenzy continued Tuesday as he offered his closing statements.
Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow was forced to remove Brooks from the courtroom twice over his repeated interruptions and improper decorum, once as the jury was just moments away from entering her courtroom. Throughout his closing remarks, Brooks said he was speaking “from the heart” and would not repeat facts presented by prosecutors.
“For a year, I have sat while going through this (case),” he said tearfully. “I understand about healing myself, tragedy, and pain.”
Seemingly acknowledging he was behind the wheel of the red SUV, Brooks denied it was an intentional act by him, claiming he blew his horn as he proceeded through part of the parade.
Addressing the prosecution’s claim of his “utter disregard for human life,” Brooks said that his own life experiences, including watching one of his children being born, showed he had no such disregard. He also challenged prosecutors’ claims about his “rage,” which he said was unproven and inconsistent with his actions.
He objected to “the lies put out there” about his actions, and talked about how he and his family have been hounded with hate mail and harassment as a result of the charges he faces.
“You have the decision. … Remember the power that you have,” he told jurors.
Crying freely near the end of his statement, he said, “My conscience is clear” while saying his faith in God carried him through the ordeal. “Look inside yourself to make the right decision,” Brooks said, adding, “Whatever you decide, make sure you can live with it.”
In her rebuttal, Opper dismissed Brooks’ emotional claims, noting that never once in his closing statement did he address the feelings of families who lost loved ones.
“When you ride through a parade route and roll over children, … your intent is known, Mr. Brooks,” Opper said. To the jurors, she added: “You don’t have to stand and wonder, as he claims to … There are 68 victims in this case. That’s not an accident.”
Follow Jim Riccioli on Twitter at @jariccioli.