A family devastated by what they said was an incorrect release date for their relative and subsequent death on Christmas Day was back at the Wisconsin state Capitol on Wednesday in search of justice. Wisconsin attorney John O’Donnell, representing the family of Darrell Brooks, called for Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul to fire Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, who recommended a lower bail set for Brooks.
Mr. Brooks was charged on Oct. 22 with first-degree reckless homicide in connection with the death of 16-year-old Kenosha High School student Valerie Kegler. The warrant for his arrest was set to expire on Dec. 24. But, on Dec. 24, her family was informed that he would be released. Mr. Schimel’s office said that because there were no plans to enforce the arrest warrant, the decision not to issue it was the freeholder’s decision. Brooks was released.
“There is clearly a deep problem of wrongful sentencing in the state of Wisconsin and the chief of the Wisconsin state prosecutor’s office is responsible for that,” Mr. O’Donnell said, according to WBAY-TV.
“In my view this is a complete fraud, he’s not even trained to do that sort of policing or prosecutorial work anymore. That’s a waste of taxpayer dollars, that’s an opportunity wasted,” Mr. O’Donnell added. “One person abused power who is the local district attorney in a circumstance that could have very easily been handled quite differently.”
In a statement, Mr. Schimel said: “It’s important to note that there was no intent to withhold Kenosha County County Court records. The local District Attorney’s Office made this determination, after a diligent investigation. This case was appropriately presented to the court and it’s unfortunate that the prosecutors’ office was let down.”
The attorney general also assured that his office would co-operate with a separate investigation into the matter.
At a Wednesday press conference, Mr. O’Donnell asserted that criminal justice has been in disarray in the state of Wisconsin, and he likened it to the Jim Crow laws of the 20th century. “You’ve got hundreds of millions of dollars of stop and frisk crimes, it’s very effective, but it causes astronomical costs and collateral damage to people of color and it’s unnecessary and it’s completely unjust,” he said.
“They’re Black and Latino people and poor white people all being stopped and frisked with no justification and no reasonable suspicion, it is terrorizing a lot of communities — forcing people to come up with money that they may not be able to pay in order to buy their freedom,” Mr. O’Donnell said.
The issue of bail length is complicated in Wisconsin, which relies on electronic monitoring when electronic monitoring is used, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. For anyone held without bail, money must be posted and quickly because monitoring is only available for six to eight hours per day.
The chairman of the Wisconsin Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Roger Roth, announced on Wednesday that he would be initiating a separate legislative investigation into Mr. Schimel.
“This case makes many Wisconsin residents who voted for our senators in 2010 and 2014 understandably uneasy,” he said. “Reasonable people would argue that it is wrong to allow the leaders of our judiciary to take no action to punish the prosecutors for misleading people.”
In response to Mr. Schimel’s decision, Senate Democrats called for a Department of Justice investigation into Mr. Schimel and his office. They are also asking Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, to appoint a special prosecutor to oversee a state investigation into whether Mr. Schimel violated state laws.
“This was clearly a lapse in judgment by a criminal justice system that has always relied on and recognized the importance of providing justice in these cases,” Democratic Sen. Lena Taylor of Milwaukee said, according to the Journal Sentinel. “Schimel’s office has a lot of explaining to do.”
This investigation into Mr. Schimel’s office comes two weeks after Republican Gov. Scott Walker tapped Mr. Schimel to serve as chairman of the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Election Division.
Read the full story at the Journal Sentinel.
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