Judge denies motion to move Brooks trial out of Waukesha Co.

(Mike De Sisti | AP)
Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 4:44 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 20, 2022 at 5:05 PM CDT
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WAUKESHA COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) - A Waukesha County judge has denied the motion for changing the venue in the trial of the man accused of killing six people and injuring dozens more when he allegedly drove his vehicle through the Waukesha Christmas Parade in November of 2021.

Darrell Brooks faces more than 80 charges in connection with the parade incident, and his attorneys filed a motion to move the trial out of Waukesha County, citing that he would be unable to get a fair trial due to the community mentality of “Waukesha strong” messages posted throughout the city. Brooks’ defense also informed the court that the defendant changed his pleas to not guilty by “mental disease or defect.”

Judge Jennifer Dorow cited several precedent cases before making her ruling, which show that local media coverage and/or ill repute do not mean a trial is unfair. Judge Dorow added that the voir dire process in jury selection will make way for a fair and impartial jury.

Judge Dorow also noted that media coverage this far had been objective and factual, and did not create a presumption of guilt or an influence of public opinion.

In her explanation to why she was not allowing the venue change, Judge Dorow stated that only two counties - Milwaukee and Dane - have higher populations, but with both experiencing trial backlogs that they would not be appropriate to hold Brooks’ trial.

The judge also said the court will ensure Brooks’ right to a fair trial by including an expanded pool - with more than 1,500 people initially qualified to be a juror. When reviewing the responses, the court found that 287 of the possible jurors were “likely inadmissible” and 156 to be “clearly inadmissible.”

Judge Dorow stated even if those were excluded from the pool, there would still be hundreds more to pick from. She also denied a request to empanel jurors from another county.

Later this summer there will be a two-day questionnaire conference where both the defense and prosecution will have an unlimited number of strikes to clear out potential jurors off the list based on their responses. It is estimated that this trial could last about one month, according to court records.

Once jurors are selected, they will be sequestered at the courthouse each day of the trial, but will be allowed to return home at the end of each day. They will also be meeting at different confidential locations for transport to the courthouse, and their entrance in the courthouse will be secure. Jurors will be escorted by jury bailiffs and law enforcement.

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