First off let me say that Darrell Brooks, the driver who allegedly ran over six people who were marching in a parade in Waukesha Wisconsin is a criminal. He has an extensive criminal record and if it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he was driving the SUV that plowed through parade marchers in multiple video clips then deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. Nothing included in this editorial should be considered a defense of Brook’s alleged actions. What this article does intend to address is the problem of prosecutors bowing to public pressure to over-charge defendants, and how that can create a situation where individuals are found “not guilty”, because their actions, though heinous, don’t fit the standard of the crimes being charged.
“Brooks, 39, is charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide and is expected to face a sixth count after an 8-year-old boy died Tuesday. Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper has also said additional charges are likely,” reports Politico.
The exact language of murder statutes varies by state. The phrase “intentional homicide” generally equates to “murder in the first degree” in other states. In Wisconsin, the charge for First Degree Intentional Homicide is listed in section 940.01(a)(1) of the Wisconsin penal code which states: “whoever causes the death of another human being with intent to kill that person or another is guilty of a Class A felony.” The problem with charging Brooks with intentional homicide is there’s no way to prove that he had intent to kill the people that he ran over. In most of the video clips Brooks is driving by parade-goers, not through them, and when he encounters a marching band moving in formation, so there is no open road, he swerves his vehicle and then runs down a single row of marching band members can (as crazy as it sounds) be interpreted as a weak, spur of the moment attempt to minimize bodily harm, as the original trajectory shown in the video suggests that he would have run down two rows of marching band members. Also, proving a First degree or intentional homicide murder charge typically requires proof of “malice aforethought”, such as hiring a “hit-man”, proof of criminal conspiracy, or laying a trap for the person who is to be murdered. There does not appear to be any such evidence in the Brooks case.
The charge for First Degree Reckless homicide is listed at Section 940.02(1) of the Wisconsin penal code and states: “Whoever recklessly causes the death of another human being under circumstances which show utter disregard for human life is guilty of a Class B felony.” Criminally reckless homicide with “criminal indifference” to human life is often drafted in other states as “Murder in the second degree”. This is the charge that Brooks should be facing, His actions in driving through a parade route and mowing people down while he was (as police claimed) trying to flee a domestic violence incident clearly demonstrates a criminal disregard for human life. If police are able to establish that he absolutely was the driver of the vehicle that drove through that parade, then there is no question whatsoever of his guilt, and once the jury is sent off to deliberate they should return with a guilty verdict in a very short time.
If it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Darrel Brooks was driving the vehicle that drove through the parade route in Waukesha then he is a criminal who demonstrated a reckless disregard for human life, and he absolutely deserves to be sent to prison on six counts of First Degree Reckless homicide. Unfortunately, public outrage over the incident, and public pressure to apply the greatest charges possible has apparently driven the Waukesha prosecutor to over-charge, and in doing so it is entirely possible that if Brooks is able to acquire competent legal counsel, that he will be able to get a “Not guilty” verdict on the intentional homicide charges. the Waukesha case is a perfect example of why prosecutors need to avoid bowing to public pressure, and always apply charges that properly apply to a given crime.