MADISON, Wis. — Wednesday, a judge decided to allow a Wisconsin man accused of killing six people and injuring dozens more when he allegedly drove his SUV through a Christmas parade to represent himself in court, finding that he suffers from a personality disorder and faces an uphill battle against an experienced prosecution team, but is mentally competent.
The ruling of Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow places Darrell Brooks in the extraordinary situation of having to defend himself against ten charges, including six counts of deliberate killing.
Jury selection is slated to begin on Monday for his trial.
Brooks has an equivalent high school diploma but did not attend college. Dorow stated that he has the constitutional right to represent himself if he is mentally competent.
Dorow stated that she evaluated the evaluations of Brooks given by four psychologists and agreed with their conclusions that he is intelligent and articulate enough to defend himself despite having a personality disorder and being disruptive. She cautioned him that he will have difficulty comprehending the rules of evidence, when to object to decisions, and how to cross-examine witnesses without training, but she cannot prevent him from proceeding.
Dorow stated, “This court has warned Mr. Brooks of the consequences of his actions.”
On November 21, Brooks, according to prosecutors and investigators, drove his SUV through a Christmas procession in downtown Waukesha. According to the criminal complaint, he disobeyed instructions to halt and continued driving while he ran over individuals, even as police fired at his vehicle.
If convicted of any of the homicide charges, he would face life in jail. There are 71 further counts against him, including 61 counts of criminal endangerment. Each of these charges has a potential prison term of 12 1/2 years. These offenses also include a punishment enhancement for the use of a deadly weapon, which would add five years to each count.
Initially, he pled not guilty by reason of mental disorder, but he withdrew his plea earlier this month and filed a request to represent himself.
Tuesday in court, he told Dorow that his public defenders, Jeremy Perri and Anna Kees, have not informed him of the substance of the allegations.
Dorow repeatedly asked him if he understood what he was doing, to which Brooks responded that he was aware but did not comprehend.
Dorow became so irritated with him that she postponed the hearing until Wednesday.
Wednesday’s confrontations were equally as contentious. Dorow was often interrupted by Brooks as she attempted to explain the consequences of his decision, and he was cautioned that she would likely not assign him an attorney if he requests one as the trial develops.
The judge told him that she will reprimand him in front of the jury if he continues to interrupt throughout the trial.
That’s acceptable, Brooks replied.