Darrell Brooks asks ‘what is judgment’ as he is found guilty of 76 counts in Waukesha Christmas parade attack
Darrell Brooks has been found guilty of murdering six people in a horror mass attack in Waukesha, Wisconsin, after he intentionally plowed his SUV into a crowd at a Christmas parade almost one year ago.
Brooks, 40, was convicted on Wednesday morning on all 76 charges, after jurors spent less than three hours deliberating the case at the end of a farcical three-week trial where the killer made the shock move to represent himself.
“What is judgement?” he asked the court when asked if he had any further comments to make once all the verdicts were read out.
The mass killer was uncharacteristically quiet as his fate was delivered, putting his head in his hands as a guilty verdict was returned on all charges.
He spoke only to say “yes” that he would like the jurors to be polled after all counts were delivered and then to simply mutter “no” when asked if he was satisified with the polling after it was complete.
It was a far cry from his antics during the high-profile murder trial, where he repeatedly made a mockery of the ongoing suffering of his victims and their families.
Brooks now faces life in prison on the charges. He will return to court on Monday so that a sentencing date can be set.
On the evening of 21 November 2021, the close-knit Waukesha community was enjoying its annual seasonal festivities when Brooks drove his Ford Escape through police barricades, slamming into dozens of paradegoers and participants in his path.
Tamara Durand, 52, LeAnna Owen, 71, and Virginia “Ginny” Sorenson, 79, and William Hospel, 81, were marching in the parade as part of local dance troupe for grandmothers the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies when they were mowed down and killed.
Jane Kulich, 52, was representing her employer Citizen Bank in the parade when she too was struck and killed.
Jackson Sparks, 8, was also slammed by the vehicle while marching for his baseball team alongside his older brother Tucker. The young boy was rushed to hospital but died two days later from his injuries.
As well as the six paradegoers killed, another 62 victims were struck and injured as Brooks drove his vehicle into the crowd at up to 30 mph.
Brooks was arrested near the scene of the mass attack that night after he turned up at the home of a local resident.
The killer told the homeowner he was homeless and waiting for an Uber and the man – unaware of the massacre that had just unfolded – welcomed him into his home.
Brooks had been held behind bars ever since and pleaded not guilty to all charges.
He was charged with 76 counts including 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.
No motive has been given for the mass attack but prosecutors say that Brooks deliberately drove into the parade crowd after having an argument with his ex-girlfriend earlier that day.
The woman, who Brooks is accused of running over using the same vehicle earlier that month, said that the former couple argued inside his SUV, according to prosecutors.
Brooks then allegedly drove off with her inside the car and repeatedly struck her in the face. She eventually managed to escape.
Not long later, Brooks drove his vehicle into the parade crowd, running over 68 victims, prosecutors said.
Following a farcical three-week trial, jurors spent around two hours deliberating on Tuesday afternoon. They resumed deliberations at 9.30am CST on Wednesday before notifying the judge just minutes later that they had reached a verdict at 9.43am CST.
The verdict came as Brooks continued in his attempts to derail the court proceedings.
Ever since the murder trial began back on 3 October, it resembled something of a circus with the mass murderer representing himself in court despite having no legal training.
Throughout the three-week trial, Brooks stripped off his clothing, built a fort out of boxes to hide behind, grilled his surviving victims about their injuries and claimed that Brooks isn’t even his real name.
The judge resorted to removing him from the courtroom multiple times and even admitted that she feared the 40-year-old defendant because of his behaviour in her court.
Prosecutors accused Brooks – who made the shock move to defend himself days before the trial began – of intentionally trying to “stall, delay, disrupt, intimidate” proceedings – something that has served to draw out the suffering of survivors and victims’ families left behind.
Right up until the last minute, Brooks continued to try to disrupt proceedings – making last-ditch requests and asking for apparent “shock devices” to be removed moments before the verdict was read out on Wednesday morning.
Before jurors entered the courtroom for the verdict, Brooks repeatedly asked the judge for a ruling on subject matter jurisdiction – something he has raised multiple times during the trial.
The judge told him his requests were noted but, when the 40-year-old continued to make the same point, she simply ignored him.
Brooks decided to wear a suit for the verdict being read, after he chose to wear prison garb earlier that morning during his last-ditch plea for a mistrial.
While he put his head in his hands as the judge read out the slew of convictions, a member of the public gallery heckled the killer.
“Burn in hell you piece of s***,” they shouted.
The judge ordered the individual to be removed from the courtroom.
In his latest courtroom performance on Wednesday morning, Brooks had asked for a mistrial over a Reddit post from someone posing as a juror.
Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow told the court on Tuesday evening that she had been made aware of someone claiming to be a juror posting on a “Justice4Darrell” sub-Reddit. The post was largely supportive of Brooks and critical of the judge.
An investigation has been launched into the matter with the judge allowing deliberations to continue. She said that there is no evidence the post did actually come from a member of the jury.
The user later edited the post saying: “This was all a prank, I didn’t think this would blow up like this. We are sorry.”
In court on Wednesday morning, Brooks told the judge he believes it is a real juror, saying “my specific request would be to look into a mistrial or any alternatives”.
“Clearly this points at your integrity, your honor. It’s alarming. It’s very alarming,” he said.
His request for a mistrial was denied.
The eleventh-hour bid to have his trial tossed comes after he sobbed during his closing argument on Tuesday – claiming that his car malfunctioned during the deadly attack and insisting that “my conscience is clear”.
Brooks, who was allowed to give his closing argument in person after being removed from the courtroom for much of the trial due to his repeated outbursts, even told the panel deciding his fate that the massacre “was God’s will”.
He stopped short of admitting that he was behind the wheel of the SUV that day but claimed that the car was faulty – before switching his version of events to say that “the driver” may have panicked.
“What if the vehicle couldn’t stop because of malfunction? What if the driver of the vehicle was unable to stop the vehicle? Because of that fact, what if the driver may have panicked? Does that make the driver in a rage and intent on killing people?” he said in his 50-minute statement.
“I’ve never heard of someone trying to intentionally hurt someone while attempting to blow their horn while attempting to alert people of their presence,” he added.
Brooks then claimed there was a recall on his vehicle, prompting Judge Dorow to strike those comments from the record.
The 40-year-old went on to ask the jury to think about the toll the trial had taken on his family, telling them that they need to “be at peace with what you decide”.
In the state’s closing argument – which Brooks was not allowed to be physically present for – prosecutors said that there was overwhelming evidence that he deliberately carried out the attack, pointing to the fact that he did not stop driving.
“He reached speeds of approximately 30 mph. That’s intentional. He plowed through 68 different people. 68. How can you hit one and keep going? How can you hit two and keep going?” said Ms Opper.
“His intent I do have to prove, and I submit without any doubt there’s overwhelming evidence that this was an intentional act by Darrell Brooks and an act of utter disregard for human life.”
Brooks’s controversial behaviour previously reached a head less than one week into the trial when he was able to cross-examine his alleged victims in the courtroom.
In an especially shocking moment, Brooks faced a man who he allegedly mowed down with his car and attempted to cast doubt onb the severity of his injuries.
Joshua Kraner, who had gone to the parade with his children, testified that he suffered contusions and bone bruises in the deadly attack.
Brooks attempted to dismiss the long-term impact of his injuries and suggest that he was seeking compensation claims.
“Would it be fair to say you’re moving pretty good today?” Brooks asked.
“Would it be fair to say you’re walking pretty good these days? ... Would it be fair to say you don’t remember much from the event?”
His cross-examination prompted several objections from the prosecution and a scolding from the judge.
“I gave you a little bit of leeway, but to ask about [victims making compensation] claims ... you might be asking for a different purpose,” said Judge Dorow.
At another startling point of the trial , the judge admitted that she was “scared” of the suspect as he slammed the table with his fists and gave her a “stare down” in the courtroom.
The aggressive outburst came on Friday, when Brooks claimed – without evidence – that the prosecution was coaching witnesses.
Judge Dorow dismissed his claims saying they had “absolutely no basis in fact” – a move that saw the defendant slam the table and stare unblinking at the judge.
“This man right now is having a stare-down with me. It’s very disrespectful. He pounded his fist. Frankly, it makes me scared,” said Judge Dorow.
The courtroom saga began when Brooks parted ways with his legal team just days before the trial was scheduled to begin.
State public defenders Jeremy Perri and Anna Kees had been representing Brooks ever since his arrest in November 2021.
In June, he entered an insanity plea before withdrawing it on 9 September, simply saying that he “has his reasons”.
Days later, he parted ways with his attorneys so that he could represent himself at trial.