Waukesha Parade: Prosecutor who freed suspect before tragedy says it was the result of human error by overworked staff member

Assistant prosecutor assigned to domestic violence case against Brooks was handling a jury trial and nearly two dozen criminal cases when she reviewed Brooks’ latest bail, which was $ 500, tied to a charge of reckless endangerment, Chisholm said. The unidentified deputy prosecutor, who was overloaded with cases, decided to double the amount of the bond to $ 1,000, he added.

The mistake made by the Assistant District Attorney was due to the fact that she did not have access to a critical risk assessment for Brooks, as it had not yet been uploaded to the office’s case management system, did he declare.

Chisholm, who has long been a champion of efforts to reduce mass incarceration by using the discretion given to prosecutors, said a higher cash bond should have been recommended for Brooks.

“Considering the volume of business she was dealing with, she just charged the case, she looked at the previous bond and saw it was $ 500 and she doubled it,” he said. for follow-up. “It’s a mistake. It’s a human error. It started a chain of events that ended in tragedy.”

“I put my finger on myself and it is my obligation, it is my responsibility,” added Chisholm.

He said his office would use a process called sentinel event review to learn from errors in the case through ongoing practice that examines the causes, successes and failures of an incident.

When he ran for office in 2006, the district attorney embarked on a program to match those accused of minor offenses with services commensurate with the assessed risk and to turn away those deemed to be at risk. high risk, such as violent offenders. Chisholm said Thursday that this system was in place when Brooks was released and “should have been followed.”

“There was a public safety assessment that characterized this situation as a high risk situation. Our default position in this case due to Wisconsin laws is that we recommend higher amounts of money,” he said. he said, describing what should have happened in Brooks’ case.

The suspect was released on bail for two allegations of violence

Brooks, who is the sole suspect in the Waukesha tragedy, was out on bail for two separate allegations of violence, including using a car to run over a woman as she walked in the parking lot of a station- service, according to a criminal complaint. The woman told authorities that she was the mother of his child, according to the criminal complaint.
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Brooks faced five charges related to the incident, including domestic violence, and was also charged with jumping on bail because he was already out on bail in a separate incident in July 2020, according to court documents. In the 2020 incident, Brooks was charged with firing a handgun during an argument and charged with two counts of second degree reckless endangerment while using ‘a dangerous weapon and one count of possession of a firearm by a criminal.

The bond was originally set at $ 10,000 in this case, but because Brooks requested a speedy jury trial – which could not be met – the bond was reduced to $ 500. He was then released on bail in this case on February 21, the state prosecutor’s office said.

Separately, Brooks pleaded guilty in Nevada to lawful sexual seduction in November 2006, according to court records, and is a registered sex offender in that state.

Hours before Brooks drove his SUV through the Waukesha Parade, he was involved in a domestic disturbance and left the scene, according to Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson.

Chisholm previously said his office was conducting an “internal review of the decision to make the recent bail recommendation,” related to the domestic violence incident in early November.

DA said his office was “overwhelmed” with cases

Chisholm, who took office in 2007, said his office should focus on keeping violent people in the system and non-violent people out – an approach in particular consistent with national efforts to “liberation reform.” under caution”.

Bail reform aims to reduce or eliminate cash bail for people jailed awaiting trial if charged with misdemeanors or non-violent offenses. The aim is to make the system fairer for those who cannot afford to pay their obligations.
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Law enforcement officials have targeted bail reform efforts as a contributing factor to skyrocketing violent crime rates, however, data shows only a small percentage of those released on bail commit crimes. violent.

A 2020 study from Loyola University Chicago found that 97% of defendants released before trial in Cook County had not been charged with a new violent offense, based on court data from 2017 to 2019.

“You can’t associate cash bail with the surge in violent crime because, on the one hand, cash bail mostly affects low-level non-violent offenders,” Jody Armor, law professor at the United States, told CNN. ‘University of Southern California. Summer.

Going forward, Chisholm said Thursday, there should be an “honest assessment” of the purpose of bail. The district attorney said he was opposed to the cash bond because it “does not allow the risks to be properly assessed.”

“That doesn’t mean that I don’t think some people should stay in detention until their case is brought to trial. It’s called the pre-trial detention framework. We have a statute that allows it. , it is simply impractical, “he added.

Nationally, prosecutors have been challenged to navigate a criminal justice system that has been largely disrupted by the pandemic and tasked with mitigating the risk of exposure to Covid-19 that accompanies defendants to court and in prison.

Chisholm said in Thursday’s meeting his office and the system were “overwhelmed” and had lost six deputy prosecutors since 2018, including two in the domestic violence unit, due to a cut in federal funding. .

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“We typically handle around 500 cases in jury or court each year. Due to the pandemic, we have had to limit some of them, and this, in turn, affects other parts of the system,” Chisholm said.

County Chief Justice Mary Triggiano told the meeting the county had a backlog of 1,600 felonies and 3,100 misdemeanors, which drove Brooks’ bond down to $ 500 earlier this year in relationship to the 2020 incident.

Chisholm said that while this does not excuse Brooks’ low cash bond, the deputy district attorney in charge of his case did not have enough time to make a decision.

“This puts in the context that when you go through a high volume triage and try to sort out what is the most serious violation, get the case in the system and move on to the next one, sometimes errors can occur”, a- he added. .

The district attorney’s office previously said in a statement that the state’s bail recommendation in the Brooks case was “inappropriate given the nature of the recent and pending charges” against him.

“The bail recommendation in this case is inconsistent with the Milwaukee County Attorney’s Office’s approach to cases involving violent crime, nor with the accused’s risk assessment prior to the release. bail, “the office statement read.

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