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Experts Think Plea Deal Possible For Man Who Killed 6 When Driving SUV Into Waukesha Parade

Experts think a plea deal is possible for Darrell Brooks Jr., who killed six people and injured 60 when he drove an SUV into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

While Brooks, 39, has yet to provide a motive, it may not matter if he goes to trial. The charges of intentional homicide mean a life in prison for Brooks based on the evidence, legal experts told The Associated Press.

Former Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher said proving intent for the first person Brooks hit might be hard “but when he kept going and knowing what he had done to the first person and didn’t stop, then it was all intentional.”

Additionally, a criminal complaint reported that a side street was available for Brooks to turn on before hitting the parade marchers. Once passing the side street entrance, he never touched the brakes, the complaint said.

Brooks faces five counts of first-degree intentional homicide, a total expected to increase to six after another victim died Tuesday. More charges are likely to come, Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper said.

The most recent victim was 8-year-old Jackson Sparks. The other five, ranging in age from 52 to 81, were pronounced deceased just hours after the incident. As of Wednesday, at least 16 people are still in the hospital being treated, representatives from area hospitals said.

Brooks has not made a statement and no details about what he told detectives have been provided.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Darrell Brooks Jr., Waukesha Parade, Intentional Homicide
Darrell Brooks Jr., center, is escorted out of the courtroom after making his initial appearance, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021 in Waukesha County Court in Waukesha, Wis. Prosecutors in Wisconsin have charged Brooks with intentional homicide in the deaths of at least five people who were killed when an SUV was driven into a Christmas parade.
Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, Pool

Brooks’ attorneys, Jeremy Perri and Anna Kees, cautioned people not to judge the case before all facts are known.

“It’s essential that we not rush to judgment, and instead treat these proceedings and all those involved with dignity and respect,” they said in a statement.

“That includes Mr. Brooks, who is entitled to a vigorous defense and careful protection of his Constitutional rights. No matter how serious and emotional the charges, until the government proves its allegations beyond a reasonable doubt, our client is presumed innocent.”

Opper said Wednesday her office would not comment on a pending case.

Brooks is accused of refusing to stop even as an officer banged on the hood of his SUV. Another officer fired three shots into the vehicle, but it did not stop.

But even if Brooks was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time — and police have not said he was — that could not be used as a defense in Wisconsin, experts said.

Tom Grieve, a Brookfield defense attorney and former Waukesha County prosecutor, said one possible defense would be that Brooks was suffering from a mental disease or defect. A jury would have to decide if he was guilty of the charges and then whether he was mentally ill. Such a finding would likely land him in a mental institution rather than prison.

Opper could have charged Brooks with first-degree reckless homicide, which would have been a “slam dunk” conviction that, given Brooks’ age, would have been an effective life sentence, Bucher said. But extensive video and other evidence also support the more serious charge, he and other experts said.

“The fact he didn’t step on the brakes: That was intentional. The fact that his foot was on the gas: That was intentional. He could have stopped … He’s the only person who could put his foot on the brake pedal and he didn’t,” Grieve said.

A criminal complaint detailing the charges includes statements from police officers and witnesses who said the vehicle “appeared to be intentionally moving side to side,” with no attempt to slow down or stop as it struck multiple people and sent bodies and objects flying.

One officer who tried to stop the vehicle said Brooks was looking directly at him, and it appeared he had no emotion on his face, the complaint said.

Prosecutors would not be allowed to put police or bystanders on the stand to speculate on what Brooks intended to do or his state of mind, experts said.

Bucher said prosecutors also would not be able to introduce social media posts made by Brooks, an aspiring rapper, or lyrics from his songs suggesting an interest in violence — which became the subject of widespread speculation on social media that Brooks’ actions were intentional.

Brooks included links on social media to his songs, several of which seemingly celebrate violence and call police “pigs.” In a biography on his SoundCloud account, he refers to growing up in the “dangerous west side neighborhood of Washington Park” in Milwaukee, his “multiple legal battles” and his desire to turn the “life he lived on the streets” into music.

Brooks, who has been charged with crimes more than a dozen times since 1999, had two outstanding cases against him at the time of the parade disaster, including one earlier in November in which he’s accused of intentionally striking a woman with his car in Milwaukee County. He had been free on $1,000 bail for that case, which prosecutors now say was inappropriately low.

And on Sunday, Brooks was leaving the scene of a domestic dispute that had taken place just minutes before he drove into the parade route, Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said.

Several experts predicted a plea deal.

“If I were in this case, what I’d be trying to do was to see how I can put out this fire as quickly as possible,” said Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor who now works in private practice in Chicago. “If you let it linger, it’s only going to get worse.”

Waukesha Christmas Parade, Intentional Homicide, Jackson Sparks
The incident at the Christmas Parade at Waukesha, Wisconsin resulted in a total of six people dying and 60 others injured. The most recent death, Jackson Sparks, who was 8 years old, happened on Tuesday. In this photo, people light candles at a makeshift memorial during a candle light vigil in Cutler Park in Waukesha, Wisconsin on November 22, 2021, the day after a vehicle drove through a Christmas parade.
Mustafa Hussain/AFP via Getty Images

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