The Judiciary Committee voted down a bill Wednesday that would have required an individual with three violent felonies to serve life in prison.
The bill supported by Johanna Petit Chapman, whose sister-in-law and two nieces were killed in the Cheshire home invasion last summer, failed by a vote of 25 to 16 during Wednesday’s meeting.
Judiciary Committee Co-Chairman Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, said the modifications the legislature made during the January special session became law on March 1 and 18 days isn’t enough time to determine if the changes made to the persistent felony offender law are working.
During the January special session lawmakers voted on a number of criminal justice reforms, however, a vote on a three-strikes provision fell mostly along party lines, with three Democrats in the Senate and eight Democrats in the House crossing party lines to vote with Republicans in favor of a stronger three-strikes proposal, which failed in both chambers.
But Republicans on the committee said that without stronger language in place the public is being asked to trust judges and prosecutors to hold felons accountable with longer sentences.
Rep. Arthur O’Neill, R-Southbury, said there are 215 offenders currently in prison who could have been charged under the persistent felony offender act, but were not. He said most of the 215 offenders are serving less than 20 years. However, he admitted that he didn’t know if the sentences were the result of a trial or a plea deal.
“A criminal rapes a young woman and is convicted, serves time and is paroled; often not because he deserves parole but to save money. He then commits a felonious assault, is convicted by a jury of his peers and serves time and again is paroled—given a third chance. He then invades a home, and is convicted a third time by a jury of his peers. This is an individual who has forfeited his right to live in society,” Petit Chapman testified just last week.
She said her family and especially her brother who lost his wife and two daughters has been given a life sentence “without any chance of parole.” Click here to read her entire testimony.
Click here to read what Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero had to say about the vote.