Jury sees SUV involved in Waukesha Christmas parade as trial continues
WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The prosecution in the Waukesha Christmas Parade trial is preparing to rest its case as the state called some of its final few witnesses to the stand on Wednesday, Oct. 19.
The defendant, Darrell Brooks, is facing 76 charges, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide after allegedly driving through the Waukesha Christmas Parade on Nov. 21, 2021.
The state questioned more than 50 witnesses in the past ten days.
The state also introduced its first pieces of physical evidence on Wednesday, including the red Ford Escape SUV allegedly used in the attack.
The court took a private jury trip to a garage attached to the Waukesha County Courthouse where the SUV was stored at that time.
The jurors and both parties were allowed to walk around the car once, according to Judge Jennifer Dorow.
Brooks initially said he did not want to participate in the jury viewing, but later changed his mind.
The Waukesha County Sheriff's Office was in charge of the security, but the judge asked that the defendant not be visibly shackled.
The state also introduced clothing items as evidence.
Detectives said they found a gray hooded sweatshirt and sandals near where the red SUV was parked and abandoned after the parade.
Legal expert, Attorney Julius Kim, told CBS 58 the state's electronic evidence is strong.
He said although physical evidence isn't necessary, it can peak a juror's interest.
"I think jurors always crave seeing physical evidence," Kim said. "The car is very heavily damaged, and I think that's going to make an impact upon the jurors' minds as to the force of the impact on people."
A mechanical inspector with Wisconsin State Patrol testified about his inspection of the SUV after the parade.
Ryan Schultz said he found a worn joint responsible for steering and one different sized tire. He said both of these findings wouldn't have impacted the car's ability to function properly.
"Did you observe anything, anything at all that would have prohibited this vehicle from stopping if the brake pedal had been applied," Deputy District Attorney Lesli Boese asked Schultz.
"No," Schultz said.
The growing tension between Brooks and Dorow led to a heated exchange in the courtroom on Wednesday.
Brooks raised his voice toward the judge after questioning how and why an exhibit was placed on the witness stand without his knowledge.
Dorow addressed an earlier ruling she made prohibiting both parties from approaching the stand, out of fairness to the defendant who is shackled to the defense table.
Brooks became argumentative with Dorow.
"Don’t nobody tell me what to do," Brooks said after the judge advised the defendant to be quiet as the jurors walked into the room.
This exchange comes after Dorow warned Brooks to stop with the interruptions and accusations in front of the jury.
"Frankly, from my perspective, sir, your attempts and your comments are to try to dig in at this jury and to somehow create doubt about the presentation of this case and the fairness of these proceedings without the party, meaning the state, having the opportunity to refute explain or correct it," Dorow said.
Dorow questioned jurors about COVID-19 concerns after a possible exposure.
Dorow said two jurors tested positive throughout the course of this trial.
The judge said she told the jury about the possible exposure after a juror was excused for health reasons on Monday.
She said a second juror brought up a similar concern on Wednesday. This juror was not excused.
None of the jurors said they had concerns or indicated the possible exposure would interfere with their ability to pay attention or render a verdict.
Dorow said the HVAC in the new addition of the courthouse, where the trial is taking place, has a UV light system that disinfects the air at a higher rate than air purifiers. As an extra measure, she ordered two air purifiers be placed in the courtroom and one in the jury room.
The court also increased supply of masks, sanitizer and disinfectant wipes available to the jury.
Brooks said he thinks it would be a smart idea to test all of the jurors for COVID-19. The judge said she would not mandate testing.
Fifteen jurors remain. 12 are needed to decide the case.
Kim told CBS 58 if there's less than 12 jurors, it would cause a mistrial.
"I think (Dorow) recognizes that a positive test within this jury could really wreak havoc on this case," Kim said.
The state is expected to call Waukesha Det. Tom Casey back to the stand on Thursday. He initially testified on days five and six of the trial.
Opper said the detective will be the state's final witness.
Brooks is expected to present his opening statement and call his witnesses after the prosecution rests its case on Thursday.
Kim said he thinks the prosecution did a good job presenting its case, despite the unpredictability.
"I think that they were learning along the way as well and making adjustments along the way to try and get this case to move more smoothly," Kim said.
The court got a first look at how Brooks questions witnesses on direct after the judge allowed one of his witnesses to be called out of order on Tuesday due to a scheduling conflict with the Spanish interpreter.
Kim said there's different rules for questioning witnesses on direct versus cross examination, and Brooks' lack of knowledge of these rules may cause more tension and frustration.
"I think that things could get a little messy again," Kim said.
He added that the state will face a new challenge in this case and will need to tread carefully when it comes to making objections.
"The most important thing at this point is to get this case to the jury so that they can deliberate on it. With one juror and possibly two going down with COVID, I think that's a genuine concern as to making sure this case is decided in a timely fashion," Kim said.
Trial proceedings continue on Thursday at 8:45 a.m.