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WUWM's coverage of the Darrell Brooks trial. He is the Milwaukee man accused of using his SUV to kill six people and injure dozens more at the Waukesha Christmas parade in 2021.

Man accused of Waukesha parade deaths allowed to represent himself at trial

Chuck Quirmbach
Darrell Brooks (in orange) sits alone at the defense table, after Judge Jennifer Dorow accepts a request from Brooks that his lawyers withdraw from the case so Brooks can represent himself. Photo of television monitor image in basement media room of Waukesha County Courthouse.

Updated Thursday at 8:42 a.m. CDT

Darrell Brooks will get to represent himself at his trial.

Brooks is the Milwaukee man accused of using his SUV to kill six people and injure dozens more at the Waukesha Christmas parade last November. Last week, he told his lawyers to ask Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow to let them withdraw from his case.

On Tuesday, Dorow held a hearing on the request to withdraw from the 10-month-old case. Under questioning from Dorow, Brooks acknowledged he wants to be his own legal representative and said he's somewhat dissatisfied with his two public defenders.

"There's a lot of things I did not understand about the proceedings in a lot of court cases. There were things I didn't understand as to why there wasn't certain motions filed. There were a lot of things I did not understand the totality of the meaning behind. And, that's what led to a lot of issues. But these were issues being raised for several months. This was not just something that sprung up out of the blue," Brooks said.

Trial judges though are required to explain the charges and possible punishment for the defendant, as well as ask questions to make sure he or she has the ability to provide a defense. For about an hour, Dorow quizzed Brooks and he often replied that he had heard her and was aware of subjects. But most of the time said he did not understand things. At times, the conversation was contentious.

On Wednesday, during the second of two hearings on the defense motion, Dorow said she believes Brooks competent to represent himself. The judge, addressing Brooks, referred to a new letter to the court from Brooks' mother, which raises concerns about her son's mental health and representation plans.

"Ultimately in the end, a competent defendant has a constitutional right to represent himself, even if the judge or anyone else, thinks there may be no good reason for him to do so. I'm not saying you don't have a reason, sir. I'm frankly speaking to your mom at this point. She may not understand. Frankly, her understanding is not material. You have the constitutional right to make this choice," Dorow said.

Dorow warned Brooks that he won't have any standby counsel offering him advice, and may have great difficulty convincing the judge to approve, if he changes his mind and wants his lawyers back. She also isn't giving Brooks any extra time to prepare. He said he doesn't want any extra time.

Brooks began representing himself in pre-trial discussions that continued in court mid-afternoon Wednesday.

Jury selection in the trial is still set for next Monday, October 3.

Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August 2018. He focuses his longform stories on health, innovation, science, technology, transportation, utilities and business.
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