Trial begins in Waukesha Christmas parade attack that killed 6: What to know

WAUKESHA, Wis. –Jury selection began Monday afternoon in the trial of the man who faces 76 charges after police say he drove an SUV into a Christmas parade crowd in 2021 that killed six people.

Darrell Brooks Jr., 40, of Milwaukee, was identified as the driver of the red SUV that drove past barricades and tore through the downtown Waukesha crowd on Nov. 21, following a domestic incident with a woman with whom he has had a relationship.

The trial is being held in Waukesha County Circuit Court and is expected to last until the end of October. The process of jury selection — sometimes called voir dire and includes hundreds of potential jurors — began around 2 p.m. Monday after near-constant interruptions from Brooks. Selecting a jury could take up to three days.

Here's what to know about the trial.

What is Darrell Brooks charged with?

Brooks is facing 76 charges: six counts of first-degree intentional homicide with use of a dangerous weapon; 61 counts of recklessly endangering safety with use of a dangerous weapon; six counts of hit-and-run involving death; and two counts of bail jumping, all felonies; and one count of misdemeanor domestic abuse-battery.

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Brooks could face life in prison

On the intentional homicide charges, Brooks could face six consecutive life terms.

If he is convicted on the 61 counts of recklessly endangering safety, his consecutive prison term could total 762½ years, plus an additional 305 years for the modifier of use of a dangerous weapon.

Who will testify?

Hundreds were in the vicinity when the SUV struck at least 67 people along the parade route. A lot of them recorded video of the incident on their phones.

The exact number who will be called to the stand wasn't publicly shared by Waukesha County District Attorney Sue Opper, but it could involve dozens. However, in a recent hearing, Opper indicated her list had been shortened by as many as 75 witnesses.

Still, the prospective witness list was enough for the trial to be scheduled on the court docket for four weeks. While Opper had indicated she anticipated presenting the state's case in five to seven court days, things have changed since then, potentially slowing the pace.

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Judge Jennifer Dorow presides over a hearing for Darrell Brooks Jr. Friday in Waukesha County Court in Waukesha. He is charged with killing six people and injuring more than 60 after plowing through a Christmas parade with his sport utility vehicle on Nov. 21.
Judge Jennifer Dorow presides over a hearing for Darrell Brooks Jr. Friday in Waukesha County Court in Waukesha. He is charged with killing six people and injuring more than 60 after plowing through a Christmas parade with his sport utility vehicle on Nov. 21.

Brooks is representing himself

In what presiding Judge Jennifer Dorow called a much-later-than 11th-hour move, Brooks opted to waive his right to attorneys and decided to represent himself, his federal and state constitutional right.

His lack of detailed training in court rules and procedures was expected to cause some confusion and extend the trial, which happened Monday. After repeated disruptions, Dorow twice removed Brooks from the courtroom Monday and called six breaks in the proceedings between 8:30 a.m. and noon. Dorow told Brooks if the interruptions continued, she would appoint an attorney for him to keep the trial on track.

In August, Brooks erupted once after losing several key motion decisions, including one arguing for case dismissal. Dorow has warned him that any such outbursts can result in her admonishing him before the jury. She has also cautioned Brooks that he will not be able to strategically delay the trial.

Last week, the judge told him it would be "difficult" but not impossible for him to add legal representation after the start of the trial. Brooks seemed to push that point in the last week's hearing.

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How to watch the trial

The trial will be livestreamed via Wisconsin Court System's feed from Dorow's courtroom.

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Dorow ruled that, because this is a public trial, all victims and witnesses except juveniles will be fully recognizable in video while they are on the stand. The jury selection process will not be livestreamed and audio recording is restricted.

Based on recent feeds, it appears that Court TV intends to carry video of the trial as well. However, that video may not be constant, and there was no confirmation of whether Dorow had approved.

Contact Jim Riccioli at (262) 446-6635 or james.riccioli@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jariccioli.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Darrell Brooks trial begins in Waukesha over Christmas parade attack