Judge delays ruling on parade suspect’s self-representation

Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow gave Darrell Brooks until Wednesday morning to decide whether he still wants to represent himself.
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 5:40 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2022 at 6:11 PM CDT
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WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin judge deferred a decision Tuesday on whether a man accused of killing six people and injuring dozens more when he allegedly drove his SUV through a Christmas parade can represent himself at trial, after the suspect said he doesn’t understand the charges against him or how the state can prosecute him.

Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow gave Darrell Brooks until Wednesday morning to decide whether he still wants to represent himself. If he does, she promised to schedule another hearing later in the day.

Brooks’ trial is set to begin Monday. It’s unclear if Dorow would delay the proceedings if Brooks is allowed to represent himself. District Attorney Susan Opper filed a brief Monday urging her not to push the trial back, arguing that the trial date was set back in March and that a delay would inconvenience the hundreds of witnesses she might call and extend the parade victims’ emotional turmoil.

Prosecutors say Brooks drove his SUV into a Christmas parade in downtown Waukesha on Nov. 21. He faces 77 charges, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and 61 counts of reckless endangerment. Any potential motive remains unclear.

Brooks, 40, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but withdrew that plea earlier this month. His attorneys, Anna Kees and Jeremy Perri, last week filed a motion to withdraw from the case because Brooks wants to represent himself.

Brooks told Dorow that he wants to represent himself because Kees and Perri haven’t explained the “nature and cause” of the charges. He did not explain what that meant.

Dorow asked Brooks if he understood what he was doing, if he understood the seriousness of the charges and if he understood that he could face life in prison if he’s convicted on the homicide counts. She also asked if he understood if he waived his right to an attorney he would be on his own against a prosecutorial team with a combined 66 years of courtroom experience.

“Doesn’t make me flinch a bit,” Brooks said.

But he also told Dorow he didn’t understand the charges, the penalties or how legal documents are captioned, and that he didn’t know Opper represents the state, even though she has been at all of his previous court appearances and identified herself as the district attorney.

He finally refused to continue until the judge explained to him how the state has the legal power to prosecute him when the state wasn’t injured.

An exasperated Dorow warned Brooks not to play games with her.

“Sir, this is a legitimate case,” she said. “I’m not going to make a mockery (of it) by letting you ask this question.”

She finally called a recess. When court reconvened she gave Brooks a packet of documents outlining trial administration.