WAUKESHA, Wis. – Jurors began deliberating on Tuesday the fate of the man accused of walking through a 2021 Christmas parade, killing six people and injuring dozens more.
The case went to the jury after both sides presented their closing arguments on Tuesday. The panel deliberated for less than two hours before rising for the evening. Jurors will reconvene Wednesday morning and consider whether Darrell Brooks Jr. should be found guilty of the attack. The trial has been mired with constant distractions, loud outbursts and a series of objections as Brooks acts as his own defense attorney, issues that plagued proceedings on Tuesday.
Brooks faces six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, 61 counts of recklessly endangering security, six counts of hit-and-run causing death and two counts of jumping bail and one count of misdemeanor assault and battery. If convicted of intentional homicide, Brooks faces mandatory life in prison.
In their closing arguments, prosecutors portrayed Brooks as someone filled with rage and showing no remorse. They underscored Brooks’ intentions, which they said were crystal clear as he marched through the parade on November 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.
Final plea from prosecutors: Darrell Brooks’ actions were ‘intentional’
Waukesha County District Attorney Sue Opper made a central point in her closing remarks: Brooks was not a victim of circumstance or any kind of victim. He intentionally mowed down innocent people as he pushed his way through the crowd, never stopping.
Opper pointed to numerous testimonies, including videos appearing to show the red Brooks SUV being charged with driving. Video showed the SUV driving directly at parade participants relentlessly. “He never quit. Never,” Opper said.
Reading the names of the six fatal victims, Opper noted that they “all lost their lives to the conduct of Darrell Brooks”. Pointing to the 61 victims linked to the reckless endangerment charges, she noted that 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 were 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 the barricades, the police trying to stop his vehicle, the dense crowd in front of him and the people he punched. “It was intentional,” Opper said.
Then he attempted to flee to escape responsibility, fabricating a story about how he was fleeing a fight when he was later discovered by police outside a house near the parade, she added, noting his attempt to “change his appearance” by losing his clothes and other parade identification and “abandoning” his vehicle.
Darrell Brooks says his “conscience is clear” in his closing argument
The trial was mired in constant distraction, loud outbursts and a series of objections as Brooks tried to defend himself. The frenzy continued on Tuesday as he made his closing statements.
Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow was forced to remove Brooks from the courtroom twice due to her repeated interruptions and inappropriate decorum, once when the jury was moments away from enter his courtroom. Throughout his closing remarks, Brooks said he was speaking “from the bottom of his heart” and would not rehash the facts presented by prosecutors.
“For a year I sat there while I went through this (case),” he said in tears. “I understand the healing of myself, the tragedy and the pain.”
Seemingly acknowledging he was driving the red SUV, Brooks denied it was an intentional act on his part, saying he honked his horn as he drove through part of the parade.
Addressing the accusation of his “utter disregard for human life”, Brooks said his own life experiences, including the birth of one of his children, showed he had no such disregard . He also disputed prosecutors’ claims about his “rage”, which he said was unproven and inconsistent with his actions.
He took issue with “lies being told” about his actions and explained how he and his family have been harassed with hate mail and harassment following the charges against him.
“You have the decision. … Remember the power you have,” he told jurors.
Weeping freely towards 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 his rebuttal, Opper dismissed Brooks’ emotional claims, noting that never in his closing statement did he address the feelings of families who have lost loved ones.
“When you cross a parade route and run over children, … your intention is known, Mr. Brooks,” Opper said. To jurors, she added, “You don’t have to wonder, as he claims… There are 68 victims in this case. It’s not an accident.”
Follow Jim Riccioli on Twitter at @jariccioli.