Darrell Brooks has been sentenced to six consecutive life sentences for homicidally driving into and over six people and killing them at the Christmas/Thanksgiving parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin November 21, 2021. The sentence following the announcement of a guilty verdict on all counts was announced on Wednesday, November 16, 2022. Additionally, he received hundreds of years of sentences (17.5 years each) for running over and seriously injuring 61 other persons at the parade. The judge, Jennifer Dorow, who presided over the proceedings that lasted approximately one month explained in detail the reasoning behind her decision to apply the maximum sentences upon Brooks for his criminal deeds which, in her remarks, she defined as “evil.” She particularly was at pains to emphasize that his psychological problems were not sufficient either to have allowed for a plea of guilty by reason of insanity nor for mitigating the maximum allowed sentences which she applied.
The focus for rejecting any complaint about the sentencing based on Brooks’ mental health was four reports by four different forensic psychologists who argued that while Brooks had a personality disorder that it was not of a kind to override his responsibility for the homicidal use of his mother’s red SUV in mowing down so many innocent people. Judge Dorow made a point of reading from the reports of the psychologists to emphasize that her conclusion was not that merely of herself as a sensitive jurist, but that professionals who specialize in criminal psychology had clearly and unanimously declared his responsibility for the attacks despite certain psychological issues that afflict or dominate areas of his life.
Brooks’ calm, cool, and collected behavior after his rage-filled assault on the loving, happy parade-goers was evidence that he was in his right mind and that that mind is evil. After completing his rampage, he tried to divest himself of his identity and get away. He threw away the jacket he was wearing, re-arranged his hair, and in his haste to get away from the SUV left his cell phone behind. His clear attempt to distance himself from the SUV and get away was calm and collected, and he asked several people if he could use their phones to make a telephone call. He was not distraught, emotional, or incoherent. He wanted to call his mother to ask her to call an Uber he could ride in. Finally, he asked a homeowner if he could make a call, and the man allowed him to come in and make the call. Brooks was relatively calm and collected, and the pleasant man even gave him a sandwich and a jacket to put on since it was a cold Wisconsin night.
But the man grew suspicious when he saw many police cars driving by and told the police that this unusual “guest” (Brooks had lost his shoes as he rushed to get away from his vehicular weapon) was in front of his house. When the police arrived, they told Brooks to lie down on the ground so they could cuff him and take him into custody.
There was no resistance. He lay on the ground, and they cuffed him and took him in.
His behavior was calm, cool, and collected – not deranged.
Therefore, the judge’s summary justification for assigning the maximum sentence to Brooks was a beautiful and mighty summary of his responsibility and culpability. The suffering and devastation of his actions was clearly delineated, and his very ability to serve as his own attorney with some very cogent legal arguments was used by her to reveal his guilt and moral responsibility. Hearing the judge, it was clear that he cannot escape the worst possible punishment that can be given and that assigning such punishment of multiple consecutive life sentences is the proper remedy for the victims and serves the interest and demands of justice as far as possible under Wisconsin law..
Yet, despite the logic and exquisite eloquence of the judge’s presentation, this writer and perhaps millions of others felt let down and bereft. Seeing Brooks’ Bible open before him and his claim to walk with Jesus Christ was a devilish reminder that the perfect wisdom and articulate reasoning of Judge Dorow is not really complete.
Even though Wisconsin has eschewed the death penalty since 1853, that repudiation is unbiblical and unjust. Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, (Matthew 19:18) And when Jesus was dying on the Cross, and was disparaged by the murderer who was alongside him, the thief on the other cross rebuked the murderer. He said, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” [my italics] (Luke 23:41)
Despite Wisconsin’s shift towards a more conservative political philosophy in recent years, the state still did not restore the death penalty in 2006 despite a referendum that favored that change. In this year’s election, Senator Ron Johnson barely defeated the radical leftist Mandela Barnes. The closeness of that race may indicate a swing back to that state’s progressive/socialist period when Robert La Follette was a Governor and Senator from that state and ran for President on the Progressive Party line in 1924. Following the George Floyd riots, the long, detailed justification by the judge for throwing the book at Brooks may have been motivated not mainly by judicial probity but also by a desire to pander to the tide of leftism that is rising in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Her long discourse about his responsibility and guilt cannot satisfy people like myself who believe that the death penalty is a righteous, biblically sanctioned punishment. Reading four reports by forensic psychologists justifying multiple life sentences is a beautiful academic exercise by the judge, but the court’s inability to give the just punishment remains disheartening. However, she may be trying to head off those on the left who may think that multiple consecutive sentences are not sufficiently compassionate regarding a black criminal who has been oppressed and abused by “the system.” In that respect only, her analysis and rationale may be soothing and needed.
Jeffrey Ludwig’s latest book Christian Perspectives, Vol. 1 is available here.
Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
To read more articles by Jeffrey Ludwig click here.