(NewsNation) — Darrell Brooks Jr., 40, has turned a Waukesha, Wisconsin, courtroom upside down this week.
He faces 77 charges, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and 61 counts of reckless endangerment, for allegedly driving his vehicle into a Nov. 21 parade. Brooks took the unusual step of dismissing his public defenders just days before his trial began, electing to represent himself.
Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow has been holding it together, struggling to manage the defendant’s constant outbursts. At times, Brooks has refused to recognize his own name and has become so disruptive that Dorow ordered him removed from the courtroom.
“It’s what you call remarkable judicial restraint,” NewsNation’s Ashleigh Banfield, who has covered hundreds of controversial, high-profile court cases, said while discussing the case with her Friday night panel. “It has also had a lot of court watchers steaming mad that she didn’t smack him down, put him in his place, and just muzzle him like Hannibal Lecter.”
“Banfield” story editor Paula Froelich said she “can’t believe this is happening in a taxpayer-funded court.”
“This man is literally acting like a 9-year-old. The judge can’t get a word out. … I don’t know that much about the law, and I just have to ask, How is this happening? Why is he considered competent? How is this allowed to go on?”
Banfield explained that the reality is that American citizens have a 6th Amendment right to represent themselves. However, there are some checks and balances that come into play when you’re doing that.
“The bar is very discretionary,” she said. “Every judge will choose on his or her own where that bar falls. I think we’re there with this guy. … What she’s trying to do, is preserve the record, and allow the record to show that she gave that man every single legal latitude allowed under the law to screw up his own case. And that she didn’t do (screw up his case) for him … nor did the state.”