By TODD RICHMOND
The mother and grandmother of a man who killed six people when he drove his SUV through a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee said Wednesday that he has suffered from mental illness since he was a child as they pleaded with a judge to ensure he receives treatment after he’s sentenced to life in prison.
Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow was expected to sentence Darrell Brooks later Wednesday afternoon. A day after hearing from dozens of victims, Dorow listened to comments from Brooks’ supporters before she handed down the sentence.
Darrell Brooks Jr.’s grandmother, Mary Edwards, told Dorow that mental illness has run in the family for generations. She said that Brooks has been bipolar since he was 12 and that disorder caused him to drive through the parade crowd.
“Darrell has lost his mind and his life in the outside world,” Edwards said.
Brooks’ mother, Dawn Woods, told Dorow that no one cares about the mentally ill and asked that people show her son “a little compassion, empathy and some understanding.” She pushed Dorow to ensure that Brooks receives treatment in prison.
“If they have to stay for the rest of their lives away from society at least they’re getting the help they need to become mentally well,” Woods said.
Brooks appeared to weep as his mother spoke.
Brooks drove his red Ford Escape through the parade in downtown Waukesha on Nov. 21, 2021, after getting into a fight with his ex-girlfriend. Six people were killed, including an 8-year-old boy who was marching with his baseball team, as well as three members of a group known as the Dancing Grannies. Scores of others were injured.
A jury convicted Brooks last month of 76 charges, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and 61 counts of reckless endangerment. Wisconsin does not have the death penalty, but each homicide count carries a mandatory life sentence and he faces hundreds of years behind bars on the remaining charges.
District Attorney Susan Opper asked Dorow on Tuesday to make the sentences consecutive so they stack up “just as he stacked victims up as he drove down the road,” with no chance of release on extended supervision, Wisconsin’s version of parole.
Brooks chose to represent himself during his monthlong trial, which was punctuated by his erratic outbursts. He refused to answer to his own name, frequently interrupted Dorow and often refused to stop talking. Multiple times the judge had bailiffs move Brooks to another courtroom where he could participate via video but she could mute his microphone when he became disruptive.
Dorow had little choice but to allow Brooks to represent himself, noting that several psychologists found him competent.
Richmond reported from Madison, Wisconsin.
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