The man accused of killing six people and injuring dozens more by ramming an SUV into a Christmas parade last year in Waukesha, Wisconsin, will plead not guilty to his criminal charges by reason of insanity.
Darrell Brooks, the 40-year-old accused killer, has changed his plea from “not guilty” to “not guilty by reason of mental defect or insanity.” Waukesha County court records show that he will undergo a mental evaluation.
Brooks is accused of driving his SUV into a crowd of people attending a Christmas parade on Nov. 21, 2021. Prosecutors have since charged him with a total of 83 counts of crime related to the incident, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, each punishable by life in prison.
The suspect’s defense attorneys previously filed a motion requesting to move the trial out of Waukesha or to bring in jurors from a county other than Waukesha. They argued that “an impartial trial cannot be held in Waukesha,” citing the extensive media coverage of the deadly attack and the community’s outpouring of support for the victims.
Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow on Monday denied the motion. “There is no doubt in this court’s mind that an impartial jury can and will be impaneled in Waukesha County,” she said.
‘The Kenosha Way’
The case will proceed in what Dorow called “the Kenosha way,” a reference to last year’s high-profile homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, during which 12 jurors of Kenosha, Wisconsin, had been allowed to return home but not to discuss the case when they left the courtroom. Rittenhouse was eventually acquitted of all criminal charges against him.
“This was a prophylactic used during the highly publicized trial of Kyle Rittenhouse last year and one which this court viewed as being appropriate and meeting the needs to ensure a fair and impartial jury,” Dorow said.
“Once a jury of 16 is impaneled, juries will be sequestered at the courthouse during each day of trial but allowed to return home at the end of the day,” the judge added. “These jurors will meet each day at a different undisclosed location for transport to the courthouse by the clerk’s office and law enforcement. This will ensure that jurors are kept separate from victims, witnesses, attorneys, and the media.”
The attack at Waukesha left six people dead, including an eight-year-old boy. More than 60 others were injured.
According to the complaint filed at Waukesha County Circuit court, Brooks struck people from at least eight different groups marching in the parade, spread out over the course of about five blocks, and some spectators along the way.
Brooks, with “no emotion on his face,” at no time stopped to avoid striking any person, according to the complaint. At one point, he leaned his head out the window to steer because there was a person on the windshield blocking his vision. “However, Brooks does not stop but continues driving,” the complaint alleges, citing a detective’s report.
“As I continued to watch the SUV, it continued to drive in a zig zag motion,” a witness said, according to the complaint. “It was like the SUV was trying to avoid vehicles, not people. There was no attempt made by the vehicle to stop, much less slow down.”