Career criminal Darrell Brooks sped through the barricades of a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, killing six and injuring dozens, and the New York Times on Saturday engaged in damage control for the left-wing “bail reform” movement nationwide.
“Waukesha Suspect’s Previous Release Agitates Efforts to Overhaul Bail,” by Glenn Thrush and Shaila Dewan, offered up plenty of excuses for Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and the staggeringly low bail set for Brooks after he ran over his girlfriend with an SUV, enabling him to be out of jail in the first place, while spinning hard to avoid tarring the “overhaul bail” movement nationwide.
Brooks’ pro-Black Lives Matter posts and approval of violence on social media were completely ignored:
The bail decision has brought criticism raining down on Milwaukee County’s district attorney, John T. Chisholm, a Democrat who has tried to reduce high rates of incarceration and racial disparities in the justice system. Longtime critics, led by Wisconsin’s previous governor, Scott Walker, blamed Mr. Brooks’s release on Mr. Chisholm’s “radical” liberal ideology.
It appears, though, that the controversial release may have been not a policy decision, but the result of happenstance and other factors -- an inexperienced junior prosecutor and a rushed supervisor up against a huge backlog of cases that piled up during the coronavirus pandemic, according to court documents and interviews with judges, prosecutors, local officials and defense lawyers.
The bond was ultimately set by a court officer. Several people familiar with Milwaukee’s criminal courts said the amount was uncharacteristically low given the defendant’s background and charges, and it prompted an internal investigation within the district attorney’s office.
The backlash raised fears that the fatal episode would set back efforts across the country geared at reducing the incarceration of poor defendants awaiting trial because they cannot afford bail.
The reporters and their sources warned readers not to use the Wisconsin tragedy to discredit the bail reform movement:
“This was not the product of criminal justice reform or bail reform efforts, which have rightfully questioned how we use pretrial and post-conviction incarceration,” said Craig Mastantuono, a Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer who has worked on such efforts for 15 years.
Occasional condemnation of the bail ruling snuck in, but more excuses followed, without any suggestion the case should give pause to leftist activists who want to eliminate cash bail:
“With a tragedy like this, a true tragedy, we do not have any way of predicting when this is likely to happen or not likely to happen,” said Meghan Guevara, an executive partner at the Pretrial Justice Institute. “If the judges were not having to churn through so many cases, they may have time to focus on a case like this,” she added.
The reporters buried an incredible admission from Chisholm himself when he admitted his leniency would lead to murder:
In a 2007 interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Mr. Chisholm acknowledged the system could not perfectly predict who might commit violence. “Is there going to be an individual I divert, or I put into a treatment program, who’s going to go out and kill somebody?” he said. “You bet.” He was discussing alternatives to incarceration, not release on bail pending trial. Such programs have often been shown to reduce overall recidivism.
The report ended with the paper's priorities clear: Not the killings themselves, but how the killings threatened to block efforts to make the criminal justice system “more equitable” and less racist by eliminating bail:
“This could be a huge blow to our work in making the system more equitable,” said David Bowen, a Wisconsin state representative whose district includes several predominantly Black neighborhoods in Milwaukee. “The narrative gaining traction in white suburban communities now is all about being tough on crime.”