WAUKESHA - On Day 3 of his trial, during what was supposed to be strictly an administrative session preceding testimony, Darrell Brooks Jr. told the court he has been feeling COVID-level ill.
That resulted in a spate of motions, arguments and warnings, plus unexpected testimony from a jail administrator, as Brooks sought to adjourn the trial while he continues COVID-19 protocols pending test results on Friday.
That request was ultimately denied. The trial will proceed as planned.
As on previous days, Brooks, 40, repeatedly objected out of turn and spoke over other court officials, eventually resulting in his removal to a separate courtroom where his microphone was muted and he often held up a laminated "objection" sign.
"I gave him nine warnings before I removed him to another courtroom," Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow said, as bailiffs removed him Wednesday afternoon.
Before opening statements from prosecutors and Brooks himself take place Thursday, Dorow wanted a day to set some ground rules in how the trial should proceed.
Day 1 trial recap: Defendant Darrell Brooks Jr. repeatedly removed from courtroom
Day 2 trial recap: A jury has been selected; opening statements set for Thursday
Brooks told the court he thinks he has COVID-19
Much of it revolved around Brooks' decision to represent himself, leaving him without an attorney trained in court rules and etiquette. But it began with Brooks telling the court he was currently under a COVID-19 protocol after feeling unwell and awaiting test results by Friday.
"Frankly, I'm very afraid right now because I don't know what's going on. I'm fully vaccinated," Brooks said. "I know people who have died of COVID, and I'm as scared as hell."
The intentional homicide trial involving Brooks, accused of killing six and injuring 61 others with his SUV during the 2021 Waukesha Christmas Parade, begins in earnest at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
Faced with a total of 76 criminal counts, he opted less than a week before the trial to represent himself, allowing his attorneys to withdraw from the case.
Brooks said COVID symptoms have hit him hard
Brooks said he had noticed both fatigue and a distinct loss of taste Tuesday, after feeling ill for several previous days.
Dorow asked if Brooks would be willing to have a rapid test conducted to try to keep the trial on schedule. He generally evaded her question, responding that the jail had told him the two-day test was his only available option.
Dorow asked if he would object to her questioning jailers or other staff about what has transpired. He said he would.
However, in unexpected preliminary testimony, Angela Wollenhaupt, the administrator of the Waukesha County Jail, indicated that other tests were available, including a rapid test.
"He was offered another test, which he refused," Wollenhaupt said.
Regardless of his test results, Dorow said that since he was at least 6 feet from any other person, and masked, the courthouse's safety protocols were being met.
Waukesha County district attorney calls the COVID claim a 'delay tactic'
Waukesha County District Attorney Sue Opper wasn't buying it.
"We believe this is nothing more than another delay tactic from Mr. Brooks ... in line with the defendant's behavior" at recent hearings, Opper said, almost immediately interrupted by Brooks with an objection.
She said previously recorded phone calls between Brooks and his mother indicated he had intended to delay the trial for several weeks.
Opper noted that if he had begun feeling ill since the weekend, he would already be approaching the five-day isolation protocol. But, more specifically, she focused on whether Brooks had avoided being tested rapidly, causing a two-day delay.
Dorow denies motion to adjourn
Dorow ultimately saw no reason to delay the proceedings.
She noted that no positive test has been recorded to date, and in his interaction in court Wednesday he did not seem obviously impaired.
"There is insufficient information on the record to find his concerns are anything more than speculative," she said.
Under her ruling, the trial will proceed with opening statements shortly after 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Testimony would likely begin later in the day.
'Housekeeping' measures finalized
Among the measures discussed at the end of Wednesday's hearing were court administrative rules generally not spelled out in a trial in advance of a trial involving trained attorneys.
For instance, the rules included how proper objections are made and how cross examinations by Brooks might be limited if he is banned to a neighboring courtroom for disruptive behavior.
But one revelation was the extent of jury instructions, which will be read to the jury prior to their deliberations. The instructions run approximately 68 pages, which Dorow will read in their entirety following closing arguments.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Darrell Brooks Jr. Day 3 trial takeaways in Waukesha Parade attack