A Wisconsin judge ruled Wednesday that Darrell Brooks can represent himself at his upcoming murder trial for allegedly plowing his SUV into a Waukesha Christmas parade, killing six and injuring dozens.
The decision came after a combative hearing that stretched over two days in which Brooks, 40, repeatedly interrupted and challenged Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow.
As Dorow questioned Brooks, he answered "I'm aware" or "I'm informed," which she said was the functional equivalent of "I understand."
"I never once said I understand – I object, which is my First Amendment right to say whatever I want," he interjected.
"Mr. Brooks, your rights do not involve interrupting me," scolded an exasperated Dorow.
"I didn't interrupt, I objected," replied Brooks, wearing an orange jail-issue T-shirt and pants and a blue surgical mask.
She said that Brooks, who has a high school equivalency diploma, is "deliberately disruptive" but possesses "the minimal competency necessary to conduct his own defense."
Although Brooks suffers from a personality disorder, he was found mentally competent and has a constitutional right to act as his own attorney if he chooses.
"This court has warned Mr. Brooks what he's getting into," Dorow cautioned.
The judge said that Brooks' mother sent a letter to the court Tuesday calling her son "unstable" and saying he was making the wrong decision by representing himself.
Brooks is charged with 77 counts – including six homicide raps for the Nov. 21 rampage.
Prosecutors say that Brooks intentionally used his red Ford Explorer to hit revelers at the annual Christmas celebration, swerving back and forth to maximize the human carnage.
Brooks' trial is slated to begin Monday with jury selection and will be broadcast live. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.