Darrell Brooks Jr., 40, was sentenced on 76 counts, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and 61 counts of reckless endangerment, You will not have the possibility of release
Darrell Brooks makes remarks about Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper as she gives her final remarks during her sentencing in a Waukesha County Circuit Court in Waukesha, Wisconsin on Wednesday, November 16, 2022. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, swimming pool)
A judge on Wednesday sentenced a man to life in prison without the possibility of release who killed six people and injured many others when he was driving his SUV in a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee, rejecting his and his family's arguments that mental illness drove him to do so.
Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow sentenced Darrell Brooks Jr., 40, on 76 counts, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and 61 counts of reckless endangerment.
Each murder charge carried a mandatory life sentence, and the only uncertainty Wednesday was whether Dorow would allow Brooks to serve any part of those sentences with extended community supervision, the state's current version of probation. She does not. Wisconsin does not have the death penalty.
The gallery cheered when Dorow announced life sentences. Moments later, she sentenced him to 762 years in prison on the endangerment charges.
Image of the site of the accident. Mike De Sisti-USA TODAY NETWORK via REUTERS
“Frankly, Mr. Brooks, no one is safe from you,”, Dorow said. “This community can only be safe if you are behind bars for the rest of your life. …You left a path of destruction, chaos, death, injury and panic as you drove seven or more blocks through the Christmas parade.”
Dorow had bailiffs move Brooks to another courtroom where he could participate via video after he became disruptive during his pre-sentencing remarks . He stood motionless in his prison uniform and handcuffs as the judge announced the sentences.
Brooks's victims demanded during a hearing Tuesday that Dorow give him the harshest possible sentence. Chris Owens, whose mother was among those killed, told Brooks: “All I ask is that you rot and rot slowly.”
Brooks drove his red Ford Escape during the parade in downtown Waukesha on November 21, 2021, after falling out with his ex-girlfriend. Six people were killed, including 8-year-old Jackson Sparks, who was marching with his baseball team, and three members of a group known as the Dancing Grannies. Dozens of people were injured.
Michele Allworth delivers a victim impact statement on behalf of Darrell Brooks during Brooks' sentencing in Waukesha County Circuit Court in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal -Sentinel via AP, Pool )
On Wednesday, before the judge handed down his sentence, Brooks told the court he had suffered from mental illness since he was young and had no plans to drive on the parade route. He also offered his first apology to the dozens of people who were injured or lost loved ones to him during the incident.
Brooks, who represented himself at trial, told Dorow in comments that rambled for two hours that he grew up fatherless, poor and starving in apartment buildings infested with rats and insects. Brooks said that he has dealt with mental health issues for as long as he can remember and that he was physically abused, though he did not say by whom specifically. He sometimes took medication and spent brief stints in mental health facilities and life was better then, he said.
“People, as I said, are going to believe what they want, and that's okay. This has to be said: what happened on November 21, 2021 was not, no, not an attack. It was not planned, engineered,” Brooks said, adding later: “Thiswas not an intentional act. No matter how many times you say it over and over again, it wasn't like that.”
Brooks also offered his first apology to the victims and his families.
Darrell Brooks reacts as Michele Allworth gives a victim impact statement on Brooks' behalf during Brooks' sentencing in a Waukesha County Circuit Court in Waukesha, Wisconsin on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, pool)
“I want you to know that I'm not only sorry about what happened, but I'm sorry you couldn't see what's really in my heart,” she said. “That you can't see the remorse I have”.
But Brooks didn't explain his motive or offer any other insight into what he was thinking as he drove the van to the parade. When Dorow asked her what sentence she thought she should receive, she didn't answer directly, but said: “I just want you to help me.”.
Mother and Grandma de Brooks tried to persuade Dorow to commit Brooks to a mental institution instead of a prison. His grandmother, Mary Edwards, said Brooks has been bipolar since he was 12 years old and that the disorder caused him to drive to the parade. His mother, Dawn Woods, pressured Dorow to make sure Brooks received treatment in prison.
“If they have to stay away from society for the rest of their lives, at least they will get the help they need to recover mentally,” Woods said.
Darrell Brooks, who appears through A video in an adjacent courtroom after being removed for continued interruptions, listens as he is sentenced to 6 consecutive life sentences in a Waukesha County Circuit Court in Waukesha, Wisconsin on Wednesday, November 16, 2022. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, Pool)
Brooks appeared to cry as her mother spoke.
Dorow said before sentencing that he does not believe Brooks has a mental illness, noting that four psychologists who evaluated him earlier this year discovered that he suffers from antisocial personality disorder but not mental illness.
“It is my opinion that mental health issues did not lead him to do what he did on November 21, 2021 and, frankly, did not play a role,” the judge said Wednesday. “It's very clear to me that he understands the difference between right and wrong and just chooses to ignore his conscience. He feeds him anger and rage.”
Dorow spent most of Tuesday listening to dozens of victims who demanded that Brooks get the maximum possible sentence. One by one, they described the frantic search for their children in the immediate aftermath, the pain their children have endured while still struggling to recover from their injuries, and the emptiness they feel coping with the loss of their dead loved ones.
Darrell Brooks' grandmother, Mary Edwards, gives a victim impact statement during Brooks' sentencing in a Waukesha County circuit court in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, Pool)
District Attorney Susan Opper asked Dorow Tuesday to make the sentences consecutive so they stacked up “just like he stacked victims while driving down the road,” with no possibility of release under prolonged supervision.
Brooks chose to represent himself during his month-long trial, which was marked by his erratic outbursts. He refused to respond to his own name, frequently interrupted Dorow, and often refused to stop talking. Several times, the judge had bailiffs move Brooks to another courtroom where she could participate via video, but she could mute her microphone when she became disruptive, just as she did on Wednesday.
(with information from AP)