The trial of Darrell Brooks Jr. begins today. Mr. Brooks, a 39-year-old black man, drove his red SUV through a crowd during the Waukesha Christmas parade on November 21, 2021, killing six people.

At about 4 pm, he drove through barricades at the parade and continued for five blocks, zig-zagging through the crowd at 25 mph, intentionally hitting people. A police officer pounded on the hood of his SUV, trying to get Mr. Brooks to stop, but he kept going. Another officer said Mr. Brooks tapped the brakes but then rapidly accelerated. The officer heard tires squeal as the vehicle turned abruptly into a crowd. The officer said in a criminal complaint that this was an intentional act to “strike and hurt as many people as possible.”

Aftermath of Darrell Brooks’ rampage.

Mr. Brooks drove off after another officer fired three shots at his car. He crashed and ran away on foot. Police caught up with him and arrested him.

All six people who died were white. Five were between the ages of 50 and 81, but Jackson Sparks was eight. He died after brain surgery. Mr. Brooks injured more than 60 others.

On June 9, 2020, during the rioting after George Floyd’s death, he posted about white people under his rapper name, MathBoi Fly:

LEARNED ND TAUGHT BEHAVIOR!! so when we start bakk knokkin white people TF out ion wanna hear it…the old white ppl 2, KNOKK DEM TF OUT!! PERIOD..

The post ended with a middle finger emoji and a cursing emoji.

Not long before the Waukesha parade, Mr. Brooks had intentionally run over a woman in Milwaukee County but was released on $1,000 bail. He now faces many charges, including six counts of 1st degree homicide. Police records from that night show that Mr. Brooks told police he “didn’t mean to kill nobody.” His bail was set at $5 million.

Mr. Brooks originally pled not guilty by reason of insanity, but he withdrew that plea in September 2022. One week before the trial, he decided to act as his own lawyer. Judge Jennifer Dorow ruled him competent to do so, after reviewing evaluations from four psychologists who found that while Mr. Brooks has a personality disorder and is disruptive, he is intelligent and articulate enough to defend himself. His disruptive behavior during pre-trial procedures and jury selection quickly became a problem. He kept interrupting the judge, to the point that she had to have him removed from the courtroom. He was put in another nearby courtroom, where could watch the proceedings by video. When she told him he could come back, he refused.

In one exchange, after he interrupted the judge, she said, “This is a prime example of some of the difficulty with Mr. Brooks.”

He replied, “I don’t think you have a PhD, Your Honor.”

The judge continued, “He can be, in my opinion, deliberately disruptive, but nonetheless, he maintains being competent at the most basic level, in order to present the defense on his behalf.”

Mr. Brooks added, “Object to that.”

His mother, Dawn Woods, had asked the court not to let her son represent himself, because she believes he is “not mentally capable of presenting himself as his own attorney.” She said in an interview, “You’re gonna see manic, full blown. That’s what you’re going to see.”

Darrell Brooks in court.

She believes her son committed this crime because he was not taking his medicine for mental illness, and she has decided not to attend the trial, because she already knows the verdict. She knows her son will be sent to prison, and she has written letters of condolence to the families of victims. In the interview, she added tearfully, “I ask God to give them strength. I ask God to give them peace and comfort them.”

Jury selection, which was not televised, took two days. The jurors are ten men and six women, with four alternates. All are white. The city of Waukesha is 87% white, and 3% black. Mr. Brooks, who used two out of his 10 preemptory strikes, tried to get the judge to strike the entire panel of jurors.

The prosecution has over 300 people on its witness list, many of them victims. Since Mr. Brooks is representing himself, that means he will examine his victims, including children. He only had three defense witnesses listed, including his mother, but on Tuesday, he told the judge that he wouldn’t be calling her.

Opening arguments will be given today.

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