Hearing To Decide If Waukesha Parade Suspect Will Face Trial For Murder

MADISON, Wisconsin (AFP) – A commissioner of the court is set to decide Friday whether a Milwaukee man accused of plowing his SUV during a Christmas parade, killing six people and injuring dozens, will stand trial for murder.

Daryl Brooks, Jr. is scheduled to appear in Waukesha County Court before Commissioner Kevin Costello for a preliminary hearing. Such hearings, when the court official decides whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute the accused, are usually a formality but can shed light on defense and prosecution strategies.

According to the criminal complaint, Brooks drove his mother’s Maroon Ford Escape to the parade in downtown Waukesha on November 21. He continued to walk despite police officers’ demands to stop, with some officers telling investigators it appeared the driver was deliberately trying to hit people. And “citizen’s witnesses” tell investigators that the SUV never slowed down.

Some of the people he hit flew on the escape hood; According to the complaint, at one point Brooks had to lean out of the driver’s window to steer because someone had landed on the windshield.

Six people were killed and dozens injured. District Attorney Susan Ober-Brooks was indicted on six counts of first-degree murder a few days later. He faces life in prison if convicted of even one count. This week Opper added dozens of additional charges, including reckless endangerment, hit-and-run involving death, bail-jumping, and battery life.

Any possible motives remain unknown. Court documents filed on Wednesday allege that Brooks hit his child’s mother minutes before driving into the show because she refused to get him out of prison after he was arrested for allegedly being run over by the same car earlier in November.

Brooks was arrested in neighboring Milwaukee County in that alleged previous incident. He was released from prison on November 19, two days before the show, after posting a $1,000 bond.

Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, has been highly critical of his office, which recommended that Brooks’ bail be lowered.

Chisholm told county officials in December that the COVID-19 pandemic had led to a backlog of cases in his office. An assessment of the risks Brooks posed to society never happened in his office computer system and went invisible, Chisholm said, and recommended the overburdened young assistant attorney general work on $1,000 bail so she could move on to other cases.

A group of Milwaukee County taxpayers filed a complaint with Governor Tony Evers in December asking him to remove Chisholm from office. An attorney appointed by the Evers administration to review the complaint concluded Tuesday that the complaint has technical legal flaws and is not valid. Evers refused to take any action against Chisholm, his fellow Democrat.

Chisholm pushed for the termination of the cash bail, saying it was unfair to the poor defendants. He wants a new system in which perpetrators of violence are only imprisoned until trial.

The Brooks case prompted Republican lawmakers to introduce bills requiring a minimum bond of $10,000 for people who had previously committed a violent felony or misdemeanor. They will also ask the Wisconsin Department of Justice to create a “Bond Transparency Report” detailing the offense and the terms of the bond.

Evers and Democratic Attorney General Josh Cole said they would support stricter bail policies.

This story has been corrected to show that the commissioner of the court, not the judge, will decide whether to bring Brooks to trial.

Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter: twitter.com/@trichmond1

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