'This is your deepest fear:' Milwaukee DA explains mistakes that led to Waukesha suspect's low bail
WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- For the first time since the Waukesha parade attack, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm spoke publicly on Thursday, Dec. 2.
Chisholm previously said in a statement that suspect Darrell Brooks should not have been out on a $1,000 cash bond at the time of the attack, calling it "inappropriately low."
"This is your deepest fear," Chisholm said Thursday. " You have an obligation in every case to protect the victims, protect the community."
According to court records, on Nov. 2, Brooks allegedly tried to run down the mother of his child with his car. Bail was set at $1,000 cash and Brooks posted the money and was released. Days later, he's accused of using that same car to plow down 60 people in Waukesha, killing six.
"It should have just been substantially more," Chisholm said of the bail.
The case was handled by an assistant district attorney with just two-and-a-half years of experience and a heavy caseload.
"That week, she [the ADA] was actually in the middle of a jury trial, a two-and-a-half-day jury trial, in addition to having almost two dozen felony level cases to review," Chisholm said. "This case was one of those cases she was reviewing."
A public safety assessment deemed Brooks was in the highest risk category, which normally would mean a high cash bail. However, Chisholm says the ADA didn't see the report because, for reasons that are still under investigation, it wasn't uploaded in the system.
"Given the volume of cases she was dealing with, given her jury trial she was working on, she simply charged the case, she looked at the previous bail, saw that it was $500 and doubled it," Chisholm said. "That's it. That's a mistake, that's human error. And it set in motion a chain of events that resulted in a tragedy."
That previous $500 bail stems from Brooks' 2020 case, where he's charged with firing a gun at his nephew after a fight. But what the ADA failed to realize is the original bail in that case was $10,000 cash. It was reduced to $7,500 and it only dropped to $500 when the courts were too backed up to meet Brooks' request for a speedy trial.
In Wisconsin, if a defendant requests a speedy trial, the case must be heard within 90 days, and if it's not, bail is usually drastically reduced.
Brooks' case was set for trial but the court system was too backed up to hear the case in time. Milwaukee County's chief judge says right now there is a backlog of 1,600 felony cases and 3,100 misdemeanor cases. Chisholm says as a result, the number of people like Brooks, who've had bail significantly reduced, has doubled during the pandemic.
"This is a system issue right now and it's only going to get worse," Chisholm said. "These backlogs aren't going to magically disappear."
Despite calls for his resignation, Chisholm says that won't happen. Instead he says he will make sure his office learns from these mistakes and he hopes this sheds light on the overburdened justice system. Still, he recognizes that's little comfort for those impacted by the Waukesha attack.
"I'm angry about it," Chisholm said. "I'm frustrated by it and I'm heartbroken for them and for their loss, for the impact it's had on both of our communities."
Chisholm says the investigation into what happened is ongoing but he pledged to be transparent about the findings.