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Trial for Waukesha parade attack suspect may be delayed

Posted at 6:56 AM, Mar 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-29 22:48:53-04

WAUKESHA, Wis. — The trial for the man accused of killing six and injuring dozens in the Waukesha Christmas parade may be delayed.

Darrell Brooks faces 77 charges in Waukesha County Court. He was back in court Tuesday for a hearing to discuss a jury questionnaire.

Brooks is scheduled to go to trial in October, and his defense team indicated that's not enough time for them to prepare.

Judge Jennifer Dorow scheduled a hearing Monday to decide.

"There is a significant expense involved in this, and I want to be mindful of the taxpayer resources, but also mindful of Mr. Brooks' right to a fair trial," Judge Dorow said.

The bulk of Tuesday's hearing discussed the jury questionnaire, which attorneys indicated in court is 19 pages long and more than 100 questions. Those questions remain under seal.

The defense explained they wanted to include as many questions as they could for their client. They are requesting a change of venue.

"At this point, the defense is still investigating all avenues of potential defense," said defense attorney Anna Kees. "We don't know quite yet exactly which avenue we are going to take because it is still so early in the case."

The questionnaire will help the court figure out if they can find an impartial jury in the county.

"One of the primary goals of this questionnaire is to gauge the pretrial publicity and exposure to people close to this incident, and that, again, we can't put everything we possibly want because it would become something the jurors might not want to fill this out at all," Judge Dorow said.

"Do you know any police officers, do you anybody that was hurt in this case, things like that," said Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper.

Brooks indicated to his attorneys he wanted Tuesday's hearing closed to the public so any potential jurors wouldn't hear the questions they discussed. The judge said that was an unusual request.

"It is speculative for this court to say we will taint the jury, it will not be confidential," Judge Dorow said. "I say that because these jury questionnaires, ultimately when they go to the prospective jurors, come with a very strong admonishment and admonition that the jurors themselves, that these prospective jurors, keep this information confidential."

The judge also brought up questions for potential jurors about working on Saturdays and being sequestered, both of which she said are possibilities.

Back in February, Brooks' attorneys said the sheer number of people who were directly affected by the parade, along with what they call the powerful and passionate community response to the tragedy, makes it very difficult for the court to ensure a fair trial. Earlier this month, the questionnaire method was brought up, with prosecutors saying the same method was used in another high-profile case tried in Waukesha County: the Slenderman stabbing trial.

If the questionnaire is approved, potential jurors will have until June 1 to return their forms for consideration. Both sides will then review the findings. The district attorney says if 80 to 90 percent of the forms that come back show impartiality, a fair trial could be held in Waukesha.

Brooks' next court appearance is Sept. 9 for a jury status hearing, but Judge Jennifer Dorow did lock in Oct. 3 as the start date for the trial and blocked off the rest of the month in case they need more time to reach a verdict.

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