WAUKESHA, Wis. - For the first time since the Darrell Brooks trial started, we're hearing from the defendant's mother, who spoke with FOX6 News Thursday, Oct. 6.
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith spoke with Dawn Woods the day her son began questioning witnesses, representing himself in the Waukesha Christmas parade attack homicide trial.
Prosecutors say Brooks drove his red SUV through the Waukesha Christmas Parade route Nov. 21, 2021, killing six and injuring more than 60. He faces 76 charges, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide. One homicide conviction would put him behind bars for life.
"We’ve known since Darrell was 6 that something was wrong," said Woods. "We had him in therapy for a long time."
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "Is he remorseful?"
"We talk about the families often and the victims, and he says to me that he prays for them, too, and he has to live with the fact that six people died because of him," said Woods. "He is very full of shame."
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "Do you feel responsibility?"
"Yes," said Woods. "Had I just not bailed him out, then none of this would have happened."
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "Do you regret bailing him out?"
"Yes because I figure by the police being involved, that she (Erica Patterson, Brooks' girlfriend) would tell me the truth," said Woods. "Even though that was not the first time she said Darrell hurt her, came back and said she lied. She was saying stuff because she was mad."
Darrell Brooks in court on Oct. 6 during state's opening statements
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "Did he ever talk about driving through the parade route?"
"Early on, and he does not remember," said Woods. "Every time Darrell goes into a manic where he explodes like that, he does not remember what he did. You have to tell him what he did. He knows what you told him, but he can’t recall the act."
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "Do you think he knew what he was doing driving through that parade route?"
"I don’t think … I don’t even … I don’t believe from what I’ve known and seen that Darrell was even in his right mind, that Darrell was even conscious of what he was doing because I don’t, whenever he goes into that explosiveness, he can’t stop," said Woods. "He can’t control. He doesn't even know what he’s doing."
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "There are conversations you’ve been to Waukesha to see him."
"I’ve been there twice since he’s been incarcerated," said Woods.
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "What did you talk about?"
Darrell Brooks tells the court he recognizes one of the jurors
"About him, how he’s doing, how he’s feeling, what’s going on with the family, how’s everybody doing. Nothing in particular," said Woods. "But I have been to Waukesha twice, but I didn’t, after those two meeting times I went to visit him, I told him because I don’t have a vehicle and I was using a driving service to get me there, $30 each way, they only allowed him a 15-minute visit. I said, ‘This is too much money to come speak to you through a glass for 15 minutes.’ I said, ‘I’ll put money on the phone, and we can just talk daily' and that’s what I’ve been doing since."
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "Has he told you he’s going to try to get this trial delayed?"
"I asked him about that, Mary, and he said that when he put forth the motions, it wasn’t to get the trial delayed," said Woods. "It was trying to get some understanding. Then we were on the phone. He would talk to me about different motions and things he don’t understand, and he want to ask but never in the context that, ‘Mom, I’m going to get my trial delayed,' because every time he would bring it up, I would say, ‘Darrell, the judge said she is not going to delay the trial.’ He’d be like, ‘Momma, she got to. She got to.’ I said, ‘No, son. She said she is not going to delay the trial.’ I said, ‘I don’t know what it is you’re not understanding,’ and when she was giving him the questionnaire to see if he was competent enough, the waiver, he kept crossing out … he kept writing in, ‘I don’t understand.' She could see he was not competent enough to be his own attorney. Once he got all the information he needed, Darrell, he shared some stuff with me that was in it. He shared with me that Erica, his girlfriend at the time, the calls to the police to have them come out, whatever she told them he did, they did a follow-up interview the next day, and she told them she lied, which didn’t shock me because she told me he lied."
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "Whose idea was it for him to represent himself? Was it his? Yours together?"
"No. I would never advise no one to advise themselves," said Woods.
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "But he insisted?"
"No," said Woods. "He felt that his lawyers did not have his best interest at heart. He dropped the NGI plea or whatever on advice of his lawyers. That was not his idea to drop his insanity plea. He said his lawyers told him that the psych eval did not go in his favor. I don’t think he knew what was in the psych eval. He did not share it with me. That is why he withdrew that plea. It was all advice of his lawyers."
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "So he’s been in court, taken off his shirt, interrupted the judge, the judge has thrown him out. His behavior in court is erratic, at times, toward the judge, disrespectful. What message would you say to him?"
"I have told him, I says, ‘You have to try to keep a cool head because it’s making you look bad,’ but he’s not medicated," said Woods. "They’re not giving him anything for his illness. I have told that judge that he’s unstable. That’s what he does."
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "Would things be different on his meds?"
"If he was on his meds, he would be a lot, a lot, a lot calmer if he was given, on medication," said Woods.
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "How does it make you feel to see what happened today?"
"I don’t watch the proceedings," said Woods. "I have a cellphone, pop up on my newsflash, two or three sentences says, ‘Darrell did this.’ I don’t click on any videos. I don’t watch it because I know that I wouldn’t be able to take it. It’s, I just can’t sit there. Even with the opening items, I just can’t sit there and listen to someone dehumanize him, and I feel that this whole trial is nothing but a circus and he is just the freak in the sideshow. I just feel they going to make a martyr out of him for entertainment. It hurts me that it’s being broadcast nationwide. To know he’s been put on display like that hurts, and I just will not be a part of that."
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "If he’s convicted on these multiple counts, what will you do?"
"I don’t know," said Woods. "You know, I already buried one child, and I would just be burying another child. Both of my children would be gone."
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "You know what it’s like to bury a child, but there are six people who died when he drove on the parade route."
"That’s why I can relate to them because I lost a grandmother," said Woods.
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "What message do you have to victims’ families?"
"I, too, know their pain because I lost a grandma who was very special to me. I know what it’s like to lose someone who means so much to you," said Woods. "I can relate to little Jackson (Sparks') mom because I lost a child. I know that hurts. I just want them to know that was not a deliberate act, and as much as Darrell loved his grandparents, my mom who passed on, he wouldn’t hurt someone else’s grandma. His love of children, because he has an 8-year-old, he wouldn’t hurt a child. He was not in his right mind and wasn’t intentional. He didn’t mean to hurt nobody. He knows nothing about the city of Waukesha.
Waukesha parade attack victims identified
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "But the video shows him going and not stopping? How is that not deliberate?"
"When you’re manic and out of control, you don’t know what you’re doing," said Woods. "He didn’t know what he was doing. He wasn’t in his right mind."
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "You brought up the little Sparks boy. What would you say to his mom tonight if she sees this? What would you say to her?"
"I would tell her, not just his mom but his dad and his brother, too, that little Jackson, he had his whole life ahead of him. He’s now a sweet angel. He did not deserve what happened to him."
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "Do you think Darrell should go to prison, and if so, for how long?"
"Yes, ma'am," said Woods. "There should be some accountability to what he did, yes ma'am."
FOX6's Mary Stoker Smith: "How long?"
"That's not for me to say," said Woods.
Woods went on to say she feels that instead of prison, Brooks should be institutionalized so that, in her words, he can get the help he needs.