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Darrell Brooks verdict: Jury finds Waukesha parade suspect guilty on all counts

Darrell Brooks faces a mandatory life sentence for each homicide count.
APTOPIX Christmas Parade SUV
Posted at 10:52 AM, Oct 26, 2022

WAUKESHA, Wis. — A jury found Darrell Brooks guilty of 76 counts - including six counts of 1st-degree intentional homicide - for driving an SUV through the Waukesha Christmas parade, killing six people and injuring dozens more last year.

Watch the full verdict reading in the Darrell Brooks trial

Brooks faces a mandatory life sentence for each homicide count. The jury deliberated for about three hours and 15 minutes total before telling the court they had reached a verdict.

During the reading of the verdict, the jury was stoic, at times staring at the judge and at others looking at Brooks or at the ground. Brooks sat with his head down and did not meet the eyes of any of the jurors.

Brooks faced 76 charges, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and 61 counts of felony reckless endangerment.

MORE COVERAGE: Local leaders, community react to verdict in Darrell Brooks trial

Prosecutors argued Brooks turned his red SUV into the parade on Nov. 21, 2021 after fleeing a fight with his ex-girlfriend. That's despite warnings from police to stop and officers opening fire on him, though no squad cars were pursuing him at the time.

After court adjourned, the prosecution team and victims and their families gathered for a press conference.

District Attorney Susan Opper said her team is satisfied with their work. And that they took the time they did — which included going off script due to the defendant's antics in court — to make sure there are no grounds for appeal.

"We were not personally offended but professionally offended that he would insult the process. The victims. Accuse them of financial gain for their testimony, things like that," she said. "It was so offensive."

Opper said factually, it was not a hard case to prove. They had video evidence of Brooks driving the vehicle, she said.

"The difficulty and the challenges we faced was what nonsense was going to come out of his mouth next. And we were anticipating what would come next. And being read, legally," said Opper.

Tyler Pudleiner, a member of the Waukesha South Marching Band who was struck by the SUV, also spoke at the press conference.

"I know that this will give us healing. This is another step forward in this process. We've been resilient all the way through. One of the things I've said so much throughout this — we're stronger than him. And it was proven today," said Pudleiner.

District Attorney Sue Opper speaks following Darrell Brooks guilty verdict

Six people were killed in the parade attack including the 8-year-old boy Jackson Sparks. Sparks was walking with his baseball team in the parade. Three members of the Dancing Grannies, who march in local parades, were also killed.

Christmas Parade SUV
A container holding the ashes of Virginia "Ginny" E. Sorenson, one of the Dancing Grannies killed in the Waukesha Christmas Parade, sits on the ledge between the gallery and the courtroom as the verdict is read during Darrell Brooks trial in a Waukesha County Circuit Court in Waukesha, Wis., Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022. Brooks represented himself during the trial and is charged with driving into a Waukesha Christmas Parade last year, killing six people and injuring dozens more. Brooks was found guilty of all 76 charges, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

The attack hit home for the city of 70,000 people just west of Milwaukee. Residents built memorials for those who had died in the attack. The community rallied around the slogan, "Waukesha Strong." A local fundraiser meanwhile raised millions of dollars for the victims and their families.

Christmas Parade SUV
Darrell Brooks objects to testimony as he appears via video from an adjacent courtroom after being removed by Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow for repeated interruptions in a Waukesha County Circuit Court during the third day of his trial in Waukesha, Wis., Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022. Brooks, who is representing himself during the trial, is accused of killing six people and injuring dozens more when he allegedly drove his SUV through a Christmas parade in Wisconsin last year. (Scott Ash/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Brooks, 40 years old, at first pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease, which would have carried a sentence in a mental institution instead of prison. Just before the trial was about to begin, though, Brooks withdrew that plea, fired his public defenders and urged Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow to let him represent himself in his own trial, which she allowed.

Christmas Parade SUV
Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow questions the jury if they are okay with continuing with their duty despite two COVID-19 exposures from jurors during the trial of Darrell Brooks, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, at the Waukesha County Circuit Court in Waukesha, Wis. Brooks is charged with driving into the Waukesha Christmas Parade last year, killing six people and injuring many. Brooks is representing himself. (Ebony Cox/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Brooks has a high school equivalency diploma. He does not have training as a trial lawyer.

waukesha parade attack
These are the 6 people killed by Brooks in last year's Christmas parade.

MORE COVERAGE: Remembering those who died during Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy

During the state's case in the first 2-and-a-half weeks of the trial, District Attorney Susan Opper called a number of parade attack witnesses and responding police officers to take the stand. They testified that it was Brooks behind the wheel when the red SUV crashed through the parade. The state's witnesses also described the SUV entering the parade route and hitting parade participants.

Christmas Parade SUV
Sue Opper, Waukesha District Attorney, grabs physical evidence to present to Kyle Becker, warrant specialist with City of Waukesha Police Department, during Darrell Brooks' trial, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, at the Waukesha County Circuit Court in Waukesha, Wis. Brooks is charged with driving into the Waukesha Christmas Parade last year, killing six people and injuring many. Brooks is representing himself. (Ebony Cox/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

Brooks meanwhile spent much of his time in court objecting to the questions prosecutors asked witnesses. On a number of occasions, Brooks launched into hours-long cross-examinations in which he argued that the trial wasn't fair to him and that the judge was 'making up the law.' At one point Brooks took his shirt off, and on several occasions refused to recognize his own name. Brooks was so disruptive on one day of the trial that Judge Dorow ordered deputies to remove him from the courtroom.

Watch: Brooks interrupts court, removes shirt

Darrell Brooks takes his shirt off in court

Prosecutors rested their case on Thursday, Oct. 20 after a police detective on the stand said that a rap video Brooks made shows him standing with the SUV used in the parade attack.

Watch: Darrell Brooks 'MathBoi Fly' music video played during trial

State shows music video of Darrell Brooks, detective identifies suspect vehicle in video

On the same day, Brooks gave his opening statement, which he started by saying that he doesn't have well-prepared remarks so he will be “speaking from the heart.” Brooks did not provide his version of the parade attack, how he would defend his innocence or show who would testify and support his narrative of events, according to The Associated Press.

Darrell Brooks
Darrell Brooks cross examines the state's witness Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, at the Waukesha County Circuit Court in Waukesha, Wis. Prosecutors allege Brooks, 40, killed six people and injured scores of others driving his SUV through a Christmas parade on Nov. 21 in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha. Brooks has been acting as his own attorney. (Ebony Cox/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, Pool)

"It’s easy to look at the magnitude of something like this and form opinions. I think it’s easy to disregard a lot of factors. It’s easy to forget the other side of the coin," Brooks said during his opening statement.

“It’s important that you see me for who I am. No mask. For who I am. This is the moment for that. I pray that your eyes and ears remain as open as possible," Brooks said.

MORE COVERAGE: Now that the Darrell Brooks verdict came down: What happens next?

At the end of his opening statement, Brooks broke into tears and bent over his desk.

Watch: Brooks breaks into tears during opening statement

Waukesha parade trial: Darrell Brooks breaks down in tears during opening statement

During closing arguments, Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper argued that Brooks' failure to stop before hitting people in the parade shows he intended to kill them.

"Not one person had to be hurt that day if he would have just stopped driving. He plowed through 68 different people. Sixty-eight. How can you hit one and keep going? How can you hit two and keep going? How can you hit three and keep going? It didn’t faze him a bit. He kept going until he got to the end and there were no more bodies to hit," according to DA Opper.

A scheduling conference is set for 1 p.m. on Oct. 31, 2022. The court will schedule a date for the sentencing hearing then.

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