Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm spoke to the Milwaukee County Board Judiciary and Public Safety Committee meeting and explained why the Waukesha Parade suspect, Darrell E. Brooks, had been released on low bail. The DA blames the mistake on the human error of a new and overworked prosecutor.
Brooks was out on $1,000 bail at the time of the parade rampage and the DA’s office said that it was because of human error. The DA said that an unexperienced and overworked assistant prosecutor had simply doubled the bail of his last conviction because she didn’t have access to the suspect’s entire criminal history.
“Given the volume of cases she was dealing with, she simply charged the case, she looked at the previous bail, and saw that it was $500, and she doubled it,” Chisholm said. “That’s a mistake. That’s human error. It set in motion a chain of events that resulted in a tragedy.”
The $500 was from a July 2020 reckless endangerment case where Brooks fired a gun while in an argument with his nephew. That bail had been originally set at $10,000 but because Brooks asked for a speedy trial that was not possible, the bail was reduced to $500.
Chisolm said that the critical risk assessment information on Brooks had not been updated in the office’s case management system. He said that that information categorized Brooks’ public risk as high, and it would have caused a higher bail to be given to Darrell Brooks.
Reports also say that the low bail had to do with the Covid-19 pandemic, which has created a backlog in cases needed to be reviewed. According to Chief Judge Mary Triggiano, the Milwaukee courts currently have a backlog of 1,600 felony charges and 3,100 misdemeanor charges. The DA’s office has also lost six assistant prosecutors since 2018, which increased the individual workload.
The $1,000 bail which put Darrell Brooks on the streets for the Christmas parade tragedy occurred two weeks before the horrific incident. The Waukesha parade suspect had been accused of allegedly punching the mother of his child and then running her over with his car.
John Chisholm, who has been the Milwaukee DA for 14 years, previously called the $1,000 bail “inappropriately low,” and has taken responsibility for the mistake that came out of his office.
He said, “I’m not here to make excuses. I own any decision that’s made by any member of my office. When I first ran in 2007, l made a promise to the community to identify people by risk.”
Chisholm built his platform on bail reform, which is the idea that people in jail on misdemeanors or minor offences can receive no or low bail for their crimes and wait for their trial outside of prison. The system tries to eliminate the number of people in jail.
Many people have bashed bail reform, claiming that it has increased the violence on the streets. But some studies have shown that only a small percentage of criminals who were released on bail reform have committed very violent crimes.
“You can’t pin cash bail to the spike in violent crime because, for one thing, cash bail affects mainly low-level non-violent offenders,” Jody Armour, a professor of law at the University of Southern California said.
Darrell Brooks is being held on a $5 million cash bond for allegedly running his car into the Waukesha Christmas parade on Nov. 21. The tragedy left six dead and nearly 60 injured. One of the youngest victims was just 8 years old.
Witnesses said that the Waukesha parade suspect was swerving and allegedly trying to hit people on purpose. He was picked up by police a couple minutes later and is being charged for six counts of intentional first-degree homicide.