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Milwaukee DA blames human error for low bail in previous case involving suspect in Waukesha Christmas parade incident

裁判所 法廷
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A red vehicle is seen speeding through a parade route in Waukesha, Wis., on Saturday evening, in a live streamed video on the City of Waukesha's Facebook page.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm has repeatedly called the $1000 cash bail Darrell Brooks, Jr. posted in a previous case “inappropriately low.”

Brooks is the suspect in the Waukesha Christmas parade incident that killed six people and injured more than 60 just days before Thanksgiving.

During a county Judiciary, Safety, and General Services Committee meeting Thursday, Chisholm explained what led to setting the low bail.

In July 2020, Brooks was charged with a serious weapons-related offense, which resulted in a $10,000 cash bail. In February of this year, Brooks was still in custody and made a demand for a speedy trial.

Chisholm said the demand could not be met because another trial was before the same court.

"Under the law, there’s a requirement that a person’s custody status be reviewed if you can’t provide them with a speedy trial. That’s what occurred [and so] the bail was reduced in that case," Chisholm said.

The bail was then reduced to $500.

In November of this year, Brooks was arrested again for a serious domestic violence offense. This case also landed with Chisholm’s office.

Chisholm said the decision to offer the $1,000 cash bail in that case came from an assistant district attorney who was in the middle of a jury trial and was reviewing nearly two dozen felony-level cases at the time, including Brooks’ case.

Chisholm said there was a public safety assessment that characterized Brooks’ situation as high risk. But Chisholm said the assistant district attorney explained that she did not have access to the assessment when reviewing Brooks' case, because it was not uploaded into the case management system.

"Given the volume of cases she was dealing with, given her jury trial that she was working on, she simply charged the case. She looked at the previous bail, saw that it was $500 and she doubled it. That’s it. That’s a mistake. That’s human error," Chisholm said. "And it just set in motion a chain of events that resulted in a tragedy."

Chisholm said the assistant district attorney was trying to do the best she could under the circumstances.

He added that his entire office is doing the best it can while being understaffed, underfunded and backlogged.

"We have lost six ADA positions since 2018. Two of those have been from the Domestic Violence Unit. That’s because I’ve lost federal funding," said Chisholm.

Chisholm said there are approximately 90 assistant district attorneys that handle adult offenses in Milwaukee County, which is a county with a population of roughly 1 million people.

The county supervisors who asked Chisholm to appear at Thursday’s meeting say they appreciate and respect that the district attorney admits that his office made a mistake. But they say they’re “deeply concerned about the impact that this event has had on our neighbors, on children, on people’s trust in the criminal justice system, and on people’s sense of safety overall.”

Teran is WUWM's race & ethnicity reporter.
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