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Governor Says He Will Sign Hill's 'Three Strikes' Bill

The killing of Woburn Police Officer Jack Maguire helped gain support for Melissa's Bill, which limits parole eligibility for convicted violent repeat offenders.

With the governor made a decision at 2:30 p.m.

"I will sign this bill," he said.

Melissa's Bill, named for Melissa Gosule who was killed by a violent repeat offender who was out on parole, has been in the works for more than a decade. But it was that spurred more support for the bill.

The bill was initially sponsored 13 years ago by state Rep. Brad Hill, R-Ipswich, who represents Hamilton and Wenham.

"Thanks to Rep. Brad Hill and DA Gerry Leone, the original sponsors of this legislation who stood with me when few others did," Les Gosule, Melissa's father, said in a prepared statement on Tuesday.

Patrick had earlier said he planned to veto the bill because it lacked the ability to allow judge's to use their discretion to bypass the "third strike." Hill said on Monday that Patrick's proposal "guts the intent of the habitual offender part of the bill."

But on Tuesday, Hill said that he was "pleased" that Patrick "took the opportunity to reflect on this issue, and ultimately recognize the dire need to sign Melissa’s Bill into law without amendment."

“This piece of legislation, 10 years in the making, demonstrates the Legislature’s commitment to holding habitual offenders of the most heinous crimes accountable for their actions," Hill said in a prepared statement issued after Patrick's Tuesday afternoon announcement. "I look forward to joining the families of Melissa Gosule and Officer Jack Maguire, who have advocated tirelessly on behalf of the safety of the citizens of Massachusetts, as this bill finally becomes law.”

Chuck Maguire, Officer Maguire's brother,

Gov. Deval Patrick's statement on the bill is printed below:

I asked for a balanced bill and, after many twists and turns, the Legislature has given me one. Because of the balance between strict sentences for the worst offenders and more common sense approaches for those who pose little threat to public safety, I have said that this is a good bill. I will sign this bill.

The bill contains important parole reforms for those convicted of the worst crimes; but just as important are the parts of this bill that reform the sentencing laws for non-violent drug offenders. Those changes start to move us away from the expensive and ineffective policy of warehousing non-violent drug offenders towards a more reasonable, smarter supervision and substance abuse program. Preliminary estimates are that nearly 600 non-violent drug offenders would be immediately eligible for supervised parole, setting them on a path to recovery and stability and saving the state millions of dollars.

But our work is not complete. I still believe there is a necessary role for judicial discretion when it comes to sentencing and many of the advocates of this bill have pledged to support that next year. 

We must also get serious about reforming mandatory minimum sentences. Like I said, the warehousing of non-violent drug offenders has proven to be a costly failure. It does nothing to improve public safety and it doesn’t deal with the substance abuse that is the source of the problem. States across the country are moving away from it and we must, too.

The Senate President and the Speaker have pledged to return to the subject of mandatory minimum sentencing early in the next session. I take them at their word. When we do, I trust the decisions we make will be based on data about the costs and trade-offs inherent in the choices we make. I have asked the Special Commission to Study the Commonwealth’s Criminal Justice System to give us a thorough analysis by year-end. I have also asked the Parole Board to give priority review to the supervised release of non-violent drug offenders, consistent with the terms of this bill.

This bill is an emotional issue for people on all sides. I understand the concerns of those who worry we have taken judgment out of the justice system and the pain and frustration of the families of victims of violent crime. For all those interests, and those of the public at large, this bill is a good start. I look forward to finishing this work together in the next session.

Paul Samuelson August 01, 2012 at 07:44 PM
The republicans must love Deval. He believes the law is unjust, as do most states in the nation, but he will sign it because he is scared of the criticism. Well that's "Run Away Deval" for you, always ready to run from a fight. Gotta love him though, he looks so cute when he scampers off, like a little scared bunny.
Michelle Bailey August 02, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Thank you Brad Hill for your continued support of this bill.
Jeff Stinson August 04, 2012 at 08:58 PM
The Governor should have recognized that these are two very different issues. I join Michelle in thanking Rep. Hill for his 13 year fight in this endeavor. My continued thoughts and prayers go out to the Gosule and McGuire families. Les Gosule is an amazing human being. Let that be known.

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