WAUKESHA - No sooner had Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow gaveled Day 4 of Darrell Brooks Jr.'s 76-count criminal trial into session than Brooks began a series interruptions and protests.
It all erupted as she tried to address why he had chosen to wear his bright orange jail clothing, not the suit or other street clothes that he has access to.
After more than a dozen interruptions, he was again removed to a neighboring courtroom.
When he appeared on video from that courtroom 15 minutes later, his shirt was off, his back facing the camera. Dorow explained that he had also removed a shoe and threatened to throw it.
In her findings, Dorow again explained the legal basis for his removal from the court.
She also warned that his conduct, if he continued the "chaos" in front of the jurors, would come at his own peril in his defense.
Opening statements have not started yet
Despite the plan for opening statements to lead the proceedings Thursday, as of mid-morning neither party had even begun them as a result of Brooks' exchanges with Dorow.
Waukesha County District Attorney Sue Opper has previously said prosecutors would take five to seven days to present their case. It's unclear how long Brooks would take to present his own defense.
Brooks, 40, is facing 76 counts tied to the Waukesha Christmas Parade attack on Nov. 21, 2021, which left six people dead and dozens more injured.
DA insists Brooks is competent to stand trial and act as his own attorney
Opper asserted again that she's convinced Brooks is competent to stand trial and his behavior should be viewed as nothing more than a delay tactic.
"At no time as has anyone in this case had a competency concern," Opper said, noting professional and observational cues about his mental state, including monitored phone calls he has made from the jail showing a lucid state of mind.
"I'm thoroughly convinced he is 100% competent to proceed trial," she said. "We are 100% convinced that his conduct (is) ... deliberate and intentional. ... He is attempting to derail these proceedings."
Dorow concurred, noting four examiners in July and August who evaluated him for his insanity defense had raised no issues about his legal competency.
"I share your observations," she said, including Opper's statements as part of her findings and concluding his conduct was more about "defiance" than mental health.
Day 3 of trial: Judge denies Brooks' request to adjourn trial for COVID-19 protocols
Day 2 of trial: A jury has been selected; opening statements set for Thursday
Day 1 of trial: Defendant Darrell Brooks Jr. repeatedly removed from courtroom
Video of victims and witnesses will be allowed
Opper's motion for reconsideration of her request to deny video recording of victims and witnesses was also addressed.
Opper noted Brooks' conduct in court has only added to their stress, and having their faces captured by cameras would exacerbate their trauma, which has likely increased as the trial proceeds.
Brooks countered that Dorow's previous decision on the issue in September should stand.
"Everything is supposed to be public. This is a public trial," Brooks said.
"This court took significant efforts to keep victims' names private," Dorow said. "In addition, I have done everything I could do to protect their privacy. ... The time has come for this trial to be conducted."
She noted that victims' names will now be on the record.
Recognizing Opper's concerns about the stress it might cause of those testifying, Dorow said the court has no choice. "I am not unmindful of the impact," she added.
Jury gets preliminary instructions
The last order of business before the presentation of opening statements was the preliminary instructions jurors must follow as the case proceeds.
Some of the instructions were standard and traditional, such as not discussing the case with anyone or exposing themselves to media reports of the trial or earlier coverage in the case.
But Dorow also included each of the 76 criminal counts: six counts of first-degree intentional homicide with use of a dangerous weapon, 61 counts of recklessly endangering safety with use of a dangerous weapon, six counts of hit-and-run involving death and two counts of bail jumping, all felonies; and two counts of misdemeanor domestic abuse-battery, one of which has been dismissed.
Each count included an explanation of what jurors needed to consider as they hear the case.
This story will be updated throughout the day.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Darrell Brooks Jr Waukesha Christmas Parade trial takeaways from Day 4