By James Murphy
The bizarre, exasperating, and heartbreaking case of Darrell Brooks, the man convicted of driving through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, last November, finally ended Wednesday with Brooks’ sentencing. Presiding judge Jennifer Dorow, with whom Brooks clashed repeatedly as he acted as his own counsel, sentenced Brooks to serve six consecutive life sentences without any possibility of parole.
Just prior to the beginning of the case, Brooks dismissed his defense team and chose to represent himself, at times making a mockery of the courtroom as he continuously attempted to use so-called sovereign citizen tactics, constantly objected to the prosecution — almost always without merit — and consistently argued with the judge and questioned her authority.
As each homicide sentence was read, applause broke out in the courtroom.
In addition, on the 67 counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, Brooks received an additional 762 years — 17 years for each count on which he was convicted.
Brooks stood stoically in a different courtroom as the sentence was read. Judge Dorow was twice forced to remove Brooks from the court during the day’s proceedings, as the killer was non-compliant and argumentative until the end.
“There are really three primary reasons for the sentences I will impose here today. One is punishment. One to protect the community and the other is to provide justice and closure to the victims. Because under that category of need to protect the court does get to consider the impact of these crimes on the victims,” Dorow said.
“This is clearly someone with a demonstrated violent history and past. Someone who has absolutely no regard for anyone but himself. To say that he is a lifelong criminal, I think is accurate,” Dorow said of Brooks.
Dorow expressed exactly how she viewed the parade incident, which occurred just five days short of one year ago:
“The seriousness of the offense can be summed up frankly in one word and that is attack. There is nothing, no other word that can best describe what happened on November 21 of 2021 than the word attack,” the judge emphasized.
In his own pre-sentencing remarks, Brooks vehemently disagreed with Dorow’s characterization.
“This was not an attack. This was not an intentional act, no matter how many times you say it over and over. It was not,” Brooks said.
Brooks would eventually issue a tepid apology to the victims, their families, and the City of Waukesha.
“I want you to know that, not only am I sorry for what happened, I’m sorry that you could not see what’s truly in my heart — that you cannot see the remorse that I have,” Brooks said.
Earlier in the day, Brooks’ mother and grandmother both attempted to bring up Brooks’ mental health in a possible attempt to influence the sentencing. Brooks had initially pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease, but withdrew the plea in September.
Nevertheless, in her pre-sentencing remarks, Dorow took great pains to examine the mental-health issue, although, officially, it had no bearing on the case.
“The bottom line is, for this court, Mr. Brooks does not present as a person who is either not competent or not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect,” Dorow concluded.
The judge acknowledged that mental illness is at times a factor in horrendous crimes, but pointed out that, in her opinion, Brooks didn’t merit such consideration. Instead, she put forth the possibility that Brooks is actually just evil.
“Many times good people do bad things, but there are times when evil people do bad things,” Dorow said. “There is no medication or treatment for a heart that is bent on evil.”
“It is very clear to this court that he understands the difference between right and wrong and that he just simply chooses to ignore his conscience. He is fueled by anger and rage,” the judge said. “Some people unfortunately choose a path of evil. And I think, Mr. Brooks, you are one of those … persons.”
Dorow then brought up Brooks’ mother and grandmother and their soliloquies regarding the role mental illness might have played in Brooks’ massacre of innocent parade goers a year ago.
“I think it’s, perhaps, far easier for them to blame a mental illness, than to, perhaps, come to grips with [the fact] their son did very, very bad things, due to very bad motivations.”
While it’s always good to see a sociopathic killer such as Brooks punished for his crimes, it rings a bit hollow right now. Perhaps it’s because the time of the year is coming when families are supposed to be together. At least six Waukesha area families will be missing a loved one at their Thanksgiving table this year thanks to Darrell Brooks. It just doesn’t seem right that Brooks — in prison or not — will go on living.