Empower Wisconsin | Nov. 15, 2022
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Danari Peer had a smile that could light up a room, the people who knew him best say. The young Milwaukee man was filled with the kind of laughter and love that warmed everyone around him with joy.
Danari was …
That’s the tense that his mother, Nicole Byrd, and father, Jackie Peer are struggling to come to terms with. More so, they’re struggling with the fact that their son, who had just turned 20 in August, is just another victim of the Milwaukee County revolving door criminal justice system led by progressive prosecutor Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.
Once again, Chisholm’s office is accused of recommending relatively little in the way of bail for a repeat felonious offender who went on to be charged with homicide.
Byrd and Peer are calling on Chisholm to be removed from office and for sweeping reforms in Milwaukee county’s predator-friendly criminal justice system.
“It’s unacceptable. The police are doing their jobs as far as arresting people and then they just get kicked right out to commit more crimes,” Jackie Peer told Empower Wisconsin in an interview last week. (Chisholm’s office) is putting residents of not just Milwaukee at risk.”
Over and over again.
On Oct. 5, Danari asked a former basketball teammate, Jaiquann McMurtry, for a ride. McMurtry, also 20, had already accumulated a dangerous criminal record, including felonies involving possession of a firearm as a felon and cocaine possession.
According to the police report, McMurtry was driving at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour when he lost control of the vehicle he was driving and crashed into a tree, killing Danari. Police said McMurtry was racing another driver on Milwaukee’s Appleton Avenue. He had cocaine on him at the time, and was charged with second-degree reckless homicide.
McMurtry had previously been released on just $500 and $3,000 signature bonds for charges of possessing cocaine with intent to deliver, bail-jumping and others.
Within less than two years, McMurtry was well on his way to being a career criminal, facing six felony charges prior to the deadly crash.
Now, he’s free on $50,000 bond — freedom that included permission to attend his former step-father’s funeral, according to court records. The judge in the case was ultimately persuaded not to allow McMurtry to go to the post-funeral service reception — held at a Milwaukee bar.
Chisholm’s office told WISN-12 that prosecutors did recommend higher bail for McMurtry. How much higher is not clear.
Jackie Peer said he asked the district attorney’s office whether prosecutors had prepared a risk assessment on McMurtry. He wanted to know what justified such a cheap release for a man accused of such serious crimes.
“Public records show they didn’t even do a risk assessment,” Peer said, adding that he was told the same by the clerk of courts office.
It’s an all-too familiar case of failed justice, leaving a line of victims from Milwaukee to Waukesha and beyond.
Nearly a year ago, Darrell Brooks Jr. plowed his red SUV into Waukesha’s annual Christmas parade killing six people — including grandmothers and an eight-year-old boy — and injuring scores more. Chisholm had to acknowledge that his office had recommended “inappropriately low” bond for the career violent criminal who had, just weeks before, struck the mother of his child with the same vehicle he would use in the Christmas Parade Massacre. Brooks was convicted last month by a Waukesha County jury on multiple counts of homicide and recklessly endangering safety. He faces life in prison.
Brooks had been freed on a mere $1,000 signature bond after being charged in the reckless vehicular incident involving his girlfriend.
In the Brooks case, Chisholm blamed the low bail on “human error,” insisting an assistant DA set the amount without having access to a risk assessment file. Now, it appears there was no risk assessment done in the case of McMurtry, who has a record of being a flight risk.
Chisholm’s office has earned a reputation of going soft on violent criminals, through low bail, plea deals and deferred judgment. Many offenders have gone on to violently re-offend.
Chisholm early on in his long tenure as Milwaukee County DA predicted his liberal policies would turn deadly.
“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 told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2007.
“You bet. Guaranteed. It’s guaranteed to happen. It does not invalidate the overall approach.”
Following the Waukesha Christmas Parade Massacre, Milwaukee County residents filed a complaint with Gov. Tony Evers asking for an investigation into Chisholm and, ultimately, his removal from office. Evers refused. Just before last week’s election,
Evers said he wouldn’t remove Chisholm unless the DA’s actions warrant it. He expressed full confidence in the prosecutor.
“I do, of course,” the governor said.
His Republican challenger, Tim Michels, pledged to fire “soft-on-crime” DAs like Chisholm.
Nicole Byrd, Danari’s mother, said she doesn’t understand how Chisholm has been able to get away with helping to create so many victims over the years. The short answer is that the voters of Milwaukee continue to vote for the liberal prosecutor every four years.
Byrd said Chisholm “has to go.”
“I don’t even know if there is going to be justice for my baby,” she said.
Jackie Peer said he and his family will be fighting for justice for Danari and to make sure his son didn’t die in vain.
“I think from top to bottom everything has to change. We can’t continue to live this way,” he said. “We’re going to push forward for change. We don’t want other families to deal with this. You literally have your heart snatched out of you.”
“Something has to happen because we’re not going to let my baby die like this,” Byrd added, fighting back tears. “He can’t get away with this, but I’m so afraid it’s going to happen. It’s my job to protect (Danari).”