Parade crash suspect’s bail raises questions

Tuesday, November 23, 2021
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People gather in Waukesha’s Cutler Park for a candlelight vigil for those affected by the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021 in Waukesha, Wis. AP PHOTO

WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) — The suspect in a Christmas parade crash in suburban Milwaukee that killed five people was free on $1,000 bail posted just two days before the deadly event, a fact that is leading to a review of what happened and renewed calls for giving judges more power to set higher bails.

One pending case against Darrell Brooks Jr. included an allegation that he deliberately hit a woman with his car in early November after a fight. Prosecutors in Milwaukee County on Monday called their bail recommendation “inappropriately low” given the facts of that case and the Sunday crash, and said they would review it.

Julius Kim, a defense attorney and former assistant prosecutor, said the bail could easily have been set more than twice as high.

“He was accused of running over the mother of his kid, and to put it at $1,000 strikes me as low,” Kim said. “It could have been an inexperienced attorney who happened to be reviewing cases that day.”

Police said Brooks, 39, was behind the wheel of the SUV that sped through the parade route in Waukesha on Sunday, killing five and injuring 48 others. Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said Brooks was leaving the scene of a domestic dispute that had taken place just minutes earlier.

Brooks has been charged with crimes more than a dozen times since 1999 and had two outstanding cases against him at the time of the parade disaster. That included resisting or obstructing an officer, reckless endangering, disorderly conduct, bail jumping and battery for the Nov. 2 incident.

Thompson said police were going to recommend he face five charges of first degree intentional homicide, which is punishable by life in prison. He was to appear in court Tuesday afternoon.

Legal experts cautioned that one extreme case should not be reason to push for higher bail amounts that would keep poorer defendants behind bars longer while they await trial.

“We don’t want to have a kneejerk reaction here and say ’Let’s lock up a lot of people pretrial,” said John Gross, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School and also director of its Public Defender Project.

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