WAUKESHA, Wis. — A bail set by a Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney was later called "inappropriately low" by DA John Chisholm, after Darrell Brooks was accused of driving his car through a holiday parade in Waukesha, killing six.
Nearly three weeks ago, Brooks was accused of running over the mother of his child. He was released on $1,000 cash bond on Nov. 11. Ten days later he was accused of the deadly parade incident.
The I-Team examined all the 2021 domestic abuse cases assigned to the same ADA assigned to Brooks' case and found dozens of cases where bail was set under $1,000, including 45 felonies. We also found 16 cases where the bail was set above $5,000.
Ultimately, the bail amount is set by the presiding judge. These amounts aren't fully reflective of the ADA's recommendation, which could be higher. In a different case earlier this November, the ADA asked for a $5,000 cash bond. The judge ruled instead for a $1,500 Signature Bond; meaning the person charged could walk out of court with just a signature.
Defense Attorney Julius Kim of Kim and LaVoy Attorneys at Law agrees with Chisholm's assessment that the bail was inappropriate, but does not blame the ADA.
"In terms of setting bail, all domestic violence cases are kinda a crap-shoot in all honesty, because it’s hard to figure out when someone may do something incredibly drastic later down the line," Kim said.
Kim says a number of factors are at play, including a rising violent crime rate and a limited number of resources. He says a check of another ADA assigned to domestic abuse cases would likely have similar bail amounts.
"It’s so hard to determine what the appropriate bail should be in each individual case," Kim said. "You can’t set $50,000, $100,000 cash bail on every person that comes through the criminal justice system because there’s only a certain amount of beds in the jail."
Kim adds, under the law, bail is not a monetary hurdle designed to keep people in jail.
"The primary purpose of bail under the law is to set a bail amount, a cash bail amount, to ensure a person's return to court," Kim said. "That’s it. Nothing more."
The DA’s office says it’s conducting an internal review of the decision and the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors wants it to be shared with them and the public in an effort to have more transparency. They have a meeting next week but there’s no timeline for when the DA’s office expects to finish its internal review.
The I-Team reached out to the DA and Milwaukee County Chief Justice offices for on-camera interviews. The DA declined and the chief justice's office did not respond.