Day 16 of the Waukesha Christmas Parade attack trial: Brooks forfeits his right to testify, Dorow rules

Jim Riccioli
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

WAUKESHA - In a trial marked by persistent disruptions, what was expected to be the final day of testimony Monday was marred by more outbursts and interruptions from Darrell Brooks Jr., which once again resulted in his removal from the courtroom.

Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow ruled Brooks, who is acting as his own attorney, forfeited his rights to call any more witnesses or testify as a result of his behavior after attempting multiple times to determine whether he intended to testify on his own behalf.

Closing arguments are tentatively scheduled for Tuesday.

Brooks, 40, of Milwaukee is charged with six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, 61 counts of recklessly endangering safety, six counts of hit-and-run causing death, two counts of bail jumping, all felonies in connection to the 2021 Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy, and one count of misdemeanor battery.

Here's what has happened so far on Day 16 of the trial.

Brooks' attempt to dismiss the case is rejected by Dorow

The day began with a motion from Brooks to dismiss the case.

Brooks cited a vehicle recall, and related class-action lawsuit, tied to his red Ford Escape SUV, implying mechanical issues could be to blame for how the SUV drove the day of the parade incident. But Dorow said a mechanical inspection, part of earlier testimony, made that point moot since the vehicle specifically showed no mechanical defects that would have contributed to the parade incident. She denied the request to dismiss the case or recall the mechanic as a witness.

"It's speculative on your part," Dorow said. "You had a full opportunity to cross-examine this witness."

Brooks challenged her ruling, "respectively objecting," and asking her to reconsider her decision. His requests were denied.

More:What to know about Jennifer Dorow, the judge presiding over the Darrell Brooks trial in the Waukesha Christmas parade attack

More:A history of Waukesha parade suspect Darrell Brooks' interactions with law enforcement

"For the record, this court is acting in contempt of the law, your honor," Brooks said.

From there, the discussion broke down into an argument with Dorow, prompting her to remove Brooks to the neighboring courtroom and mute his microphone so that she could state her findings on the record.

Brooks can't call any more witnesses or testify himself, Dorow rules

When Dorow asked whether Brooks intended to call any more witnesses, Brooks did not offer a definitive answer. "Not today, your honor," he said.

The court had previously specified that one witness, Brooks' mother, was required to show up by 9 a.m. Monday to testify if she chose to. Dorow asked him twice more if he wanted to call more witnesses and eventually ruled he had forfeited his right to do so by continuing to refuse to respond. So she asked him again: "Do you have any other witnesses available to call this morning?"

Brooks argued he couldn't hear Dorow through audio feeds to the neighboring courtroom — an argument Dorow rejected after bailiffs confirmed the feed was working.

Brooks grew increasingly upset when Dorow tried to determine whether he wanted to testify. "I haven't heard anything that you have asked," Brooks shouted.

"I believe he is feigning (problems) with his hearing. ... He is choosing to willfully not answer this court," Dorow said, finding that Brooks' refusal to answer the question meant that he had forfeited his right to testify.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin on Tuesday

After Dorow declared the evidentiary stage of the trial over, the jury briefly returned to the courtroom, only to be dismissed for the day.

The next step was the preparation of jury instructions, a process expected to take hours. In all, jury instructions, which are expected to be presented Tuesday morning, will take at least three hours to read to jurors.

Closing arguments are tentatively scheduled to begin Tuesday after the instructions have been read.

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