Darrell Brooks is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday for driving his SUV into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin last year, killing six people and injuring dozens more.
Wednesday’s sentencing comes after dozens of victims of the attack confronted Brooks in angry, emotional statements on Tuesday.
Ahead of Judge Jennifer Dorow’s sentencing, several people spoke on Zoom on Brooks’ behalf in Waukesha County Court on Wednesday, beginning with his mother, Dawn Brooks.
“Prison is not the only answer,” she told the court. “Aid, treatment, hospitalization and medication – it plays a huge part in preventing this from where we are today if it would have been offered sooner.”
She also read the poem “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou.
“Anyone with a mental illness is locked up. All he wants is to be free of his illness and be sane,” she said, adding that she believes society has an obligation to help others through treatment and medication.
Brooks’ grandmother, Mary Edwards, told the court that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was 12 years old.
“It was that mess that made him drive through that crowd,” she said. “It is my prayer that he will be treated for this disease.”
Brooks himself spoke in court for over two hours in a sweeping statement touching on his beliefs, upbringing, children and mental illness. He once apologized for the incident, which he said was neither “planned” nor “planned.”
“I want everyone to know, including the community of Waukesha, I want you to know that not only am I sorry for what happened, I’m sorry you couldn’t see what’s really on my heart . I have that you can’t see the regret,” he said.
He also apologized to the judge for his antics and outbursts during the trial.
“There was nothing personal about it,” he said. “I think it was just the pot that boiled over.”
He once asked to address the victims in the gallery, which the judge refused.
“I don’t think they’re ready for that yet,” Dorow said.
A jury last month found Brooks, 40, guilty on all 76 counts, including six counts of first-degree first-degree murder, for driving his SUV into a Christmas parade on November 21, 2021.
Those killed were Tamara Durand, 52; Wilhelm Hospel, 81; Jane Kulich, 52; Leanna Owen, 71; Virginia Sorenson, 79; and Jackson Sparks, 8.
Brooks could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for each murder charge.
When Dorow asked what he thought the court should do regarding the sentencing, Brooks said he didn’t understand the “true nature and cause of the charges.”
“I also believe that a decision was already made before we even got here,” he said.
When asked what he thought of a possible life sentence without the possibility of parole, Brooks said he’d like to go “somewhere I can be helped.”
The court is in a short recess before the judge’s verdict.
On Tuesday, the first day of sentencing, survivors spoke in court about how Brooks robbed them of their sense of personal safety, trust and peace and left them physically and mentally disabled. Parents recalled the desperate search for their children and the injuries they sustained in the attack. Family members honored the memory of the murdered. Many who approached the court asked for the heaviest possible sentence.
Several of those speaking in court were children, recounting the horror and lasting effects of that day.
“I know I lost a piece of myself that day and I’m still trying to find it,” a young victim who danced in the parade in the attack told court on Tuesday.
Another dancer who was injured in the parade spoke of fear of cars at the bus stop.
“November 21 is fast approaching and I don’t think I’m ready for that day,” the 12-year-old victim said in court on Tuesday. “Each year on this day, I and many others remember how a peaceful event that has been a Waukesha tradition for over 50 years and brought smiles and laughter to all, turned into tragedy.”
The sentencing hearing was briefly adjourned Tuesday morning after an unidentified person threatened a mass shooting at the Waukesha County Courthouse, authorities said. The threat is being investigated and security at the courthouse has been tightened, the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office said.
Brooks was also briefly removed from the courtroom Tuesday because Dorow described it as his ongoing “unruly behavior,” which included yelling at and interrupting the judge and prosecutors.
Brooks initially pleaded not guilty because of a mental illness, but withdrew the plea in September. During the trial, he dismissed his public defenders and represented himself.
Before the trial began, Brooks’ mother wrote to the judge in September, asking that he not be allowed to represent himself in court because “he’s not mentally stable enough,” Milwaukee ABC affiliate WISN reported at the time.