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Violent felon is now representing himself in the Waukesha Christmas Parade massacre trial

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Photo by Mark Hoffman-Pool/Getty Images

On November 21, 2021, hundreds took to the streets of Waukesha, Wisconsin, for the city's annual Christmas Parade. The good cheer and wholesome revelry was cut short when a red Ford Escape pulled onto the parade route and powered through the crowd, injuring nearly 50 people.

18 kids were among those badly hurt. Six people were killed, including eight-year-old Jackson Sparks, who had been marching in the parade along with his baseball team. Four of the victims were members of the Dancing Grannies, elderly women known for dancing in parades.

The trial for the individual believed responsible, 41-year-old Darrell Brooks Jr., began on Monday.

Brooks faces six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and 61 counts of felony reckless derangement. Prosecutors have indicated that an overwhelming amount of evidence stacked against him, including over 300 videos of the parade, a witness list 32-pages long, and testimonies from grieving parents, police officers, and FBI agents.

'Playing games'

Last week, Brooks withdrew his insanity/not-guilty plea and filed a motion to represent himself. He didn't offer the court any insight into the motivation behind his decision, stating only, "I have my own reasons why."

Although she warned about "what he's getting into," Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow ultimately decided on September 28 to permit Brooks to represent himself in court, noting that he was both "competent" and "coherent" enough to do so.

The defense attorneys who Brooks subsequently dismissed, Jeremy Perri and Anna Kees, had "no comment."

Tom Grieve, a Madison-based criminal defense attorney, told the AP, "You have a defendant who feels like he has nothing to lose. He's going to try to make as big a mess as possible and force a fumble by the prosecutors or judge and try to force a mistrial or build an appeal."

Former federal prosecutor Phil Turner expects a breakdown when it comes to the cross-examinations. Turner suggested that "there's going to be an appeal, no matter what."

Seven minutes into the trial, earlier suggestions concerning Brooks' ability to derail proceedings proved true, as the defendant was ejected from the court and sent back to his holding cell for repeatedly interrupting Dorow.

The judge told Brooks subsequent interruptions would result in him watching the proceedings from an adjacent courtroom.

Three hours into the trial, the court was on its sixth recess due to Brooks' interruptions.

Brooks repeatedly asserted that he was a "sovereign citizen," refusing to answer Dorow's questions. Dorow characterized this assertion and its implicit rejection of the court's jurisdiction as an "obstructionist tactic."

Brooks also demanded that prosecutors provide "verified proof" that he is an American citizen.

Former Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher suggested that Brooks is delaying the inevitable and keen now just to waste everyone's time. "He's playing games, and I think he enjoys it," said Bucher.

Bucher indicated further that it's "going to be terrible for the victims and the witnesses."

Throughout the process, Brooks has been regarded as a volatile.

In August, Brooks fell asleep, having complained that he was "bored." When he awoke, he yelled at the judge and then tussled with the bailiff.

Last week, Brooks' interruptions were so frequent as to prompt the frustrated judge to adjourn until the next day.

History of violence

Brooks is a convicted sex offender, who, when aged 39, preyed upon a 15-year-old girl. In addition to impregnating the minor, he has a long track record of violent crimes.

Fox 6 reported that in September 1999, Brooks was convicted of substantial battery and intentionally causing bodily harm. Despite a two-year prison sentence, he served three year's probation and only six months in the House of Correction.

In January 2003, he pled guilty to resisting an officer.

In February 2010, he was convicted on a strangulation charge only to serve 90 days in jail.

In 2011, Brooks fled from a police traffic stop and resisted arrest.

In 2020, Brooks was charged with firing a gun at his nephew.

In November 2021, just days before the Waukesha Christmas Parade massacre, Brooks was released on $1,000 bail, having allegedly run over the mother of his child at a Milwaukee gas station.

A BLM-supporter and an advocate for knocking "white ppl [the f***] out," Brooks routinely employed violent rhetoric online.

He claimed in his songs, "yeh we terrorists," and boasted about being a "killer in the city." In addition to writing a song criticizing former President Donald Trump, Brooks repeatedly shared anti-police and anti-Semitic messages.

The massacre

According to the police complaint filed on November 23, 2021, despite numerous attempts by police to stop Brooks, he allegedly increased his speed as he drove into the crowd and over pedestrians.

The complaint alleges that one officer who had been assisting with crowd control observed Brooks' vehicle intentionally moving side to side as it rammed through the crowd, "striking multiple people ... bodies and objects were flying from the area of the vehicle."

One witness said, the vehicle "continued to drive in a zig zag motion ... There was no attempt made by the vehicle to stop, much less slow down."

Another witness stated that it had appeared the suspect drove as with "a direct intent to hit as many parade participants."

He fled the scene, and was captured by police trying to get into a nearby house.

Each of the six murder charges Brooks faces carries a life sentence.

Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.

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