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Darrell Brooks Trial Updates

Darrell Brooks, the man accused of killing six people and wounding dozens more, pleaded not guilty Friday to 77 charges linked to a fatal hit-and-run during the Wisconsin city of Waukesha’s 2021 Christmas parade.

Darrell Brooks Trial Updates

Defense attorneys in Waukesha parade crash want 2023 trial

MADISON, Wis. — Attorneys for a man accused of killing six people and injuring dozens more when he drove his SUV through last year's Waukesha Christmas Parade told a judge Tuesday that they can't be ready for trial by fall as scheduled and need to push the proceeding into next year.

Darrell Brooks Jr.'s trial is slated to begin Oct. 3 and run all that month. His attorneys told Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow during a hearing that the time frame is unrealistic given the volume of evidence they need to review and the trial should be held in early 2023.

The judge gave them until Friday to file a formal motion to reschedule the trial. She set a hearing for Monday afternoon on the request.

Dorow added she may rule then on the defense's request to move the trial out of Waukesha County or bring a jury in from another county. Brooks' attorneys filed the request in February, arguing publicity about the case had been overwhelmingly negative toward Brooks and he can't get a fair trial in Waukesha.

Dorow had asked Brooks' attorneys and prosecutors to put together a questionnaire to send to potential jurors to gauge local bias as she considers moving the trial. The two sides spent most of the day Tuesday hashing out the wording. They came up with a 19-page, 100-question survey asking potential jurors if they knew any of the parade victims, whether they themselves were impacted in any way by the incident and whether they feel they're still impacted.

The judge said at the end of Tuesday's hearing she may decide on moving the trial without using the questionnaires. She noted that if the trial is pushed into next year, she can't send them out until October anyway because the county won't receive its list of eligible jurors 2023 from state judicial officials until then.

Brooks drove his SUV into the parade in downtown Waukesha on Nov. 21, swerving into people and running them over as he plowed through the route, according to a criminal complaint. Six people died and more than 60 were injured. Prosecutors have charged him with more than 70 counts, including six counts of homicide. Any potential motive remains unclear.

Brooks attorney Anna Kees told Dorow on Tuesday that the defense team hasn't decided what arguments to make but a not guilty plea due to insanity is a possible avenue.

WAUKESHA - Darrell Brooks Jr. on Friday pleaded not guilty to 77 charges, including six homicide counts, tied to the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy, but what exactly his defense team has in mind became clearer one day earlier.

In separate motions Thursday, defense attorney Jeremy Perri filed two key requests on behalf of the 39-year-old Milwaukee man, including a change of venue request that was not immediately discussed.

On Friday, the charges were formally presented in Waukesha County Circuit Court during Brooks' arraignment hearing, in which Perri requested an additional court date in front of a different judge — another twist in the nearly 3-month-old case.

Friday's hearing was short, lasting less than three minutes. Brooks waived a reading of the charges and Perri entered not guilty pleas on his behalf. None of the victims expressed an interest to speak during the arraignment before Court Commissioner Kevin Costello.

Defense initiatives
Brooks' attorneys have requested his trial be held in another county or before a jury drawn from another county. In either circumstance, they ask that the jury be sequestered during trial, a rare and expensive precaution.

The defense also exercised its right to substitute the original judge, and the case has been reassigned from Judge Michael Bohren to Chief Judge Jennifer Dorow.

In their request, Brooks' attorneys cited not only the widespread media coverage of the parade tragedy, but also the overwhelming community support of victims, expressed in millions of dollars of donations, dozens of vigils and even a visit to Waukesha to support victims by first lady Jill Biden.

The attorneys noted Waukesha County schools were closed for two days after the parade, and that more than 500 students received counseling when they reopened.

The motion also points out how "ubiquitous" the Waukesha Strong slogan and broken heart symbol have become in the county, in storefronts and front yards, as well as on social media. Ten thousand blue lightbulbs were distributed for free as another way for residents to show support for victims.

"While publicity is certainly relevant to determining the issue in the present case, additional factors also demonstrate that, in this case and in Waukesha County, the passions and prejudice negatively affecting the Defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial are so great that a change of venue is necessary to ensure a fair trial," the attorneys wrote.

"An impartial trial cannot be held in Waukesha County," the motion concludes.

No reason was stated in the second motion in the request for a new judge.

Pending courtroom decisions
That motion might have been a factor in the unexpectedly brief arraignment hearing Friday. Costello acknowledged the motion and confirmed that a decision had been made to allow Dorow to replace Bohren behind the bench.

A hearing before Dorow was set for 9 a.m. March 11.

Early indications are that no actions will be taken on Perri's motions before that date.

The district attorney's office has yet to respond to the motion for a change of venue. Waukesha County District Attorney Sue Opper, following Friday's hearing, said her office is still reviewing the motion.

"We may file a written response in the future, but it would be several weeks out if we do," Opper said. "I do not expect any court hearings or other activity on this case until March 11. Of course, something may come up, but as of now, I anticipate nothing until March 11."

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