WAUKESHA, Wis. — The state called its first witnesses on Thursday afternoon following opening statements in the homicide trial of Darrell Brooks.
Brooks is the man accused of driving an SUV into the Waukesha Christmas parade last November, killing six people and injuring dozens of others. He faces 76 charges, including six of first-degree intentional homicide. Each carries a mandatory life sentence if convicted.
"It sounds corny, but you'll see from the videos, there was a true sense of joy in the air, " said Assistant District Attorney Zachary Wittchow during opening. "Darrell Brooks killed that joy. He replaced it with terror, trauma and death. The evidence is going to show that Mr. Brooks left behind a trail of carnage and chaos."
When asked to make his opening statement, Darrell Brooks passed at the chance for now.
"I will be deferring at this time, your honor. I need a little more adequate time to make sure I go over the points I need to make," said Brooks.
Judge Jennifer Dorow honored his request.
The state then moved on to call its first witness, Waukesha Police Sgt. David Wanner. The prosecution followed by calling the friend of a woman Brooks allegedly got into a dispute with on the day of the parade. Brooks cross-examined both remotely from a courtroom next door where he was sent for disrupting proceedings.
Opening statements come after Brooks motioned for an adjournment Wednesday, claiming he is on COVID-19 protocol. Judge Dorow denied the motion and continued with proceedings.
Up until now, Brooks has continually been removed from the courtroom and placed in a separate room where he can watch the trial virtually. He was removed due to continued disruptions during jury selection.
Within minutes of the hearing beginning Thursday, Brooks was once again removed from the courtroom and placed in a separate room. Within 10 minutes, he had interrupted Judge Dorow at least a dozen times.
Brooks once again wore his orange jail attire to court Thursday. Judge Dorow asked him if he was willing to go back to his cell and change into street clothes. She said the whole point in allowing street clothing is to shield the fact that Brooks is in custody, and it "lends to the dignity of the proceedings."
Watch: Darrell Brooks in court without his shirt on
Brooks, however, refused and said, "who doesn't know I am in custody?"
Once he was in a separate courtroom, Brooks removed his shirt and turned his back to the camera.
Dorow resumed court and spoke about Brooks' removal, saying, "I have asked the Sheriff's department file a written report on Mr. Brooks' conduct. At one point, he took off a shoe and it appeared to the deputies that he was going to throw the shoe. He's seated with his back to the camera. He took his shirt off as well."
District Attorney Sue Opper then brought up Brooks' mental capacity, saying his actions are "attempting to derail these proceedings and avoid the inevitable. We have zero concerns about the mental competency of Mr. Brooks to proceed."
The state and Judge Dorow discussed several mental evaluations that were conducted prior to the trial beginning, all of which revealed he is mentally capable of defending himself at trial.
About an hour later, Brooks had his shirt back on and told bailiffs that his finger was cut when he was removed from the courtroom. He refused to show them his hands, and Judge Dorow moved on. She did not order any medical assistance for Brooks' alleged cut.
On Thursday, the state requested that the court prohibit photos and videos of witnesses and victims. Judge Dorow rejected that request, saying they will be fully recognizable on the stand. She did, however, maintain the sole exception for juvenile witnesses.
Shortly before 10:30 a.m., the jury was brought into the courtroom. Dorow began reading the jury instructions which include a reading of all 77 charges Brooks faces. He held up an objection sign during a majority of the reading.
Brooks later stated Thursday he recognized a juror, claiming she flipped him off during his initial appearance. Dorow said Brooks had his chance to strike jurors but will ask the juror out of an "abundance of caution" if she was at his initial appearance. The juror declined being at any of his proceedings. Shortly after, Brooks was removed from the courtroom again for interrupting Dorow.
Around 3:15 p.m., Dorow asked Brooks if he would like to return to the courtroom before the jury comes back in as opening statements were about to begin. Brooks then argued with the judge about his own disruptiveness.
As the state wrapped up its opening statement, Brooks said he would be deferring his because he needs more time to prepare.
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Criminal Defense Attorney Jonathan Lavoy spoke with our Tom Durian and Bruce Harrison ahead of Wednesday's opening statements and said he believes Brooks will be ineffective during his remarks and will continue disrupting and using delay tactics.
"I don't think he's going to focus on the elements of the crime. I think he's going to try to focus on his delay tactics, and antics... I think he will be woefully ineffective," Lavoy said.
He went on to say the delay tactics are likely Brooks attempting to create an opportunity to appeal the trial, but Lavoy said he is failing. He said Brooks is not bringing the true issues of the case forward.
Day four of the trial begins at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday with jury instructions, opening statements, and a little bit of housekeeping. The prosecution is again asking the court to not show the victim's during the trial.