The community of Waukesha, Wisconsin, is still in the grim days of grief following the murder of six people and injury to more than 60 others at the hand of a career criminal who plowed into the crowd gathered at the city’s annual Christmas parade. While the corporate media has done its best to move on, some Wisconsin state lawmakers are discussing what they can do to prevent a future crime of this scale.
State Sen. Dale Kooyenga represented a large part of Waukesha County and said that the “senseless act of evil was preventable.” He said a record in southeast Wisconsin of people being released on low bail and given lenient sentences and then returning to the community to “hurt more people and commit more crimes.”
Bail procedures in the state are complex and challenging for the public to understand. The state constitution prohibits judges from considering a defendant’s criminal record and danger to the community when setting bail. The only legal factor a judge can consider is the risk that the accused will not return to court for trial. The charged crime and the threat of further violence against the community are not factors that can be legally considered.
Scott Kelly, chief of staff for State Sen. Van Wanggaard, said that it is common for bail for offenders with local ties through family and a home to be set in the neighborhood of $500. He said that the result in cases like that of Darrell Brooks, whose history as a lewd offender and violent criminal, was not considered when his bail was set just days before the Christmas parade murders.
Brooks was out on $1,000 bail on a collection of charges, including violent felonies, when he drove through the parade on November 21. The leaders were the result of his alleged assault with his vehicle against the mother of his child on November 2.
State Sen. Julian Bradley said that it is outrageous that convicted felons are allowed to continue to “terrorize our communities” because of low bail and probationary sentences.
Wanggaard is introducing an amendment to the state constitution that would give them the power to state judges to weigh additional factors in determining bail. The amendment would include the seriousness of the alleged offense, prior criminal conviction, and violent history, as well as the safety of the community as additional bail factors.