MADISON — A man accused of killing six people and injuring dozens more when he allegedly drove his SUV through a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee last year has decided to mount an insanity defense, his attorneys said Monday.
Darrell Brooks Jr. faces more than 80 charges, including six homicide counts, in connection with the Nov. 21 incident in Waukesha. He pleaded not guilty in February. During a hearing Monday one of his attorneys, Jeremy Perri, told Judge Jennifer Dorow that Brooks is changing his plea to not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. The judge ordered a mental evaluation for him.
When a defendant enters such a plea under Wisconsin law a judge or jury must determine whether he's guilty or innocent of the alleged crime. If the defendant is found guilty, a judge or jury must determine whether the defendant was mentally responsible for his conduct at the time of the offense. Such a determination could result in the defendant being committed to a mental health facility rather than prison.
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Perri announced the change after Dorow refused a defense request to move the trial out of Waukesha County or bring in jurors from outside the county. Perri has argued that the publicity around the incident has been so intense and so overwhelmingly negative that Brooks can't get a fair trial in the county.
Dorow said that she has found media coverage has been prolific but objective and jurors aren't required to be ignorant of a case. She went on to say that internet analytics show interest in articles about the parade has waned since the first few weeks immediately following the incident and she was confident the court could assembly a pool of about 150 prospective jurors who could decide the case fairly.
The criminal complaint detailing the charges against Brooks describes how he allegedly drove into crowds of onlookers during the parade. People bounced off his vehicle as police ordered him to stop. Police arrested Brooks later that night.
Brooks is being held on a $5 million cash bond. He appeared at Monday's hearing in a surgical mask and an an orange jail T-shirt. He said nothing throughout the proceeding.
His trial had been scheduled to begin Oct. 3 and last all month. It wasn't immediately clear if that date will stand given Brooks' new plea.