At least four politicians sent out press releases Monday addressing the home invasion in New Britain this weekend by a sex offender recently released from prison. Many used the incident, in which two women were shot, one fatally, as a reason to revive the three-strikes legislation that failed in January during a special session and again during the committee process. Others warned against three-strikes.
The press releases of all the politicians are below. Read them and let us know where you stand.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell said:
“Once more, all over Connecticut, decent people are reacting with horror and fury to a heinous, inexplicable and utterly reprehensible crime of violence. Understandably, the home invasion in New Britain on Sunday reawakens the shock and revulsion we felt after the crimes last summer in Cheshire and other such cases.
“I grieve for MaryEllen Welsh, who was brutally and senselessly killed while doing nothing more than visiting a friend for coffee, and my heart goes out to Carol Larese, who was wounded. Our thoughts and prayers are with both women, their families and their friends.
“As Governor of Connecticut, my resolve is ever stronger to deal sternly and forcefully with the vicious predators who would commit such outrages. We took real steps in January to strengthen our criminal justice systems – but the ghastly crimes in New Britain show us unequivocally that there is more to do and that there are some people who are so evil that ordinary measures will not stop them.
“First, I again call upon the General Assembly to pass legislation that will establish a clear and simple ‘three strikes’ law in Connecticut. The suspect in the New Britain case has a record that includes multiple burglaries and a sex offense involving a minor. He had been denied parole in 2006 and released on probation earlier this month after finishing an eight-year sentence.
“The time for excuses and rationalization has passed. We need a law that says if you commit three violent offenses, you will be sent to prison for the rest of your life. Period. It is time for action.
“Second, I am calling for legislation that will require any offender convicted of a second or subsequent sexual offense, regardless of the severity or degree, to face an automatic 50 percent increase in their sentence for that offense. No questions, no additional legal issues to prove in court, no unwieldy persistent offender statutes. Just an automatic 50 percent increase in sentence.
“I am also asking the Chief State’s Attorney, the Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court and the Commissioners of the Department of Public Safety and Department of Correction to attend a meeting in my office this week. The simple fact is this: We have laws already on the books – Megan’s Law, Jessica’s Law, persistent offender statutes and any other applicable laws – that are not being used in all cases. I want to know exactly what resources my Administration can provide that will ensure these laws are applied each and every time they can be. I also want to know what additional resources we can provide that will ensure that non-violent offenders and violent offenders who are unlikely to reoffend have the programs and services they need to remain on the straight and narrow.
“I will also be proposing that Pre-Sentence Investigations be mandatory in all cases involving sexual offenses. These full background checks of convicted criminals are sometimes waived. Yet it is clear one continuing problem we face is deciding which offenders are the most dangerous. The improvements we have made in Board of Pardons and Paroles operations are a start, but I believe it is absolutely essential that judges have the fullest picture possible of potentially dangerous offenders before they hand down a sentence that may not keep such a person in prison for the maximum period.
“Finally, I am calling on the Legislature to join me in restoring the funding for increased GPS monitoring of offenders on probation and parole – and to require GPS monitoring for all sexual offenders upon their release. I realize fully that this will have an impact on the budget – and yet I can think of no reason not to proceed.
“The crimes that took place on Sunday in New Britain offend us all. We must – and we will – react to these crimes in a resolute but measured way. The continuing, bipartisan effort to strengthen and enhance our criminal justice system is just such a reaction.”
Speaker of the House James Amann, D-Milford said:
“I call upon the Governor to immediately sit down with legislative leadership and those on the frontlines to discuss giving our prosecutors, corrections department and judicial branch the resources they have been asking for to do their jobs. It’s time for the Governor to put the money where her mouth is. She likes to talk about three strikes, which has nothing to do with this tragedy, but refuses to deal with real issues such as giving prosecutors the tools to get longer sentences and prison overcrowding.”
Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk said:
House Republican Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., said today that the home invasion and murder Sunday of a New Britain woman has state residents questioning why lawmakers have not passed tougher laws to keep repeat violent criminals off the streets.
Cafero said Republicans have called for mandatory life sentences for repeat criminals and now the public is demanding it. He said Democrats who have thwarted the public will by rejecting mandatory sentences as “unworkable’’ or too harsh will have to answer for it.
“We have been told over and over that there is little that could have been done to prevent the evil acts that took place in Cheshire last summer or again in New Britain on Sunday. I don’t buy that and the public does not buy that,’’ Cafero said. “We agree with the Governor that the time to act on a Three Strikes mandatory life sentence law is long past due.’‘
The Democrats in a special session in January and again earlier this month turned down a proposed Three Strikes proposal.
The man charged with the most recent murder had been previously charged with first degree burglary twice and first degree sexual assault before he was released earlier this month from jail He then allegedly murdered the New Britain woman following a home invasion Sunday morning. The previous charges had been bargained down to lesser offenses which would not have exposed the suspect to the Three Strikes law Democrats rejected.
Cafero noted that Democrats consistently objected to the mandatory life sentence proposal because they viewed judicial and prosecutorial discretion as sacrosanct. Republicans modified their position and agreed that prosecutors should have discretion but must state publicly why they would not bring Three Strikes charges against a defendant who could face life behind bars if convicted.
“At the very least they would have to explain their actions and in the New Britain case we don’t know why the initial charges were reduced,’’ Cafero said. “People must feel secure in their homes and on the streets. We must be responsive to those concerns and be accountable for our own actions in protecting the public.’‘
Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez said:
“First of all, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims of the home invasion and shooting tragedy in New Britain. It is critical that we have parole and probation reform. Every week in Hartford, ex-offenders are released to halfway houses, homeless shelters, or even just onto the streets, without our knowledge. Sadly, this recent crime has brought the discussion into the forefront again. I implore the State Legislature to enact the “Parole and Probation Transparency Act” and to increase the number of probation and parole officers. This is a vital tool for law enforcement and social service providers to track individuals leaving the prison system. The act would require the Judicial Branch and the Department of Correction to notify the Chief of Police and the CEO of each municipality every 30 days of individuals who are placed on probation, placed on parole, released to a halfway house, or released within their municipality—- as well as list the support they have been given for re-entry to the community.”