Christine Stuart photo

(Updated 5:57 p.m.) State Sen. Sam Caligiuri, R-Waterbury, who helped lead the fight for a three-strikes-and-you’re-out law following the deadly home invasion in Cheshire, announced Wednesday that he hasn’t given up on the idea.

In order to continue the fight for a “true three strikes” law, Caligiuri said he formed a Three Strikes Now grassroots coalition to push for a law that would impose a mandatory life sentence for repeat violent offenders.

At a press conference outside the state Capitol Wednesday, Johanna Petit-Chapman, whose sister-in-law and two nieces were killed in the Cheshire home invasion, said, “some folks may think my family and I are in favor of the three strikes legislation because of the senseless, evil event that took my brother’s family, that took my family. Not true.”

Christine Stuart photo

“A three strikes law would not have prevented that heinous crime from happening,” Petit-Chapman said. However, it made “me more keenly aware of the persistent offenders that exist in our state. And more importantly it made me more keenly aware of all the innocent victims forever effected by their crimes.”

Petit-Chapman and her brother Dr. William A. Petit Jr., the lone survivor of the Cheshire home invasion, are honorary co-chairpersons of the coalition.

Besides launching its Web site www.threestrikesnow.com the coalition will be mailing every candidate campaigning for the General Assembly a pledge form asking whether they will support the coalition’s effort. Caligiuri said they won’t be endorsing any of the candidates, but will be building a critical mass of support for this law. He said it’s a relevant issue in the campaigns and a fair question for people to be asking their candidates.

“We believe there’s a massive amount of grassroots support on this issue,” Caligiuri said. “Campaigns are the time to have these public policy discussions.”

A vote on a three-strikes provision during January’s special session on criminal justice reforms 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 three-strikes proposal, a measure which ultimately failed in both chambers.

Judiciary Committee Co-Chairman Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, said in a phone interview Wednesday that when the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2009 it will evaluate the effectiveness of the legislation it passed last January largely in response to the Petit murders.

McDonald said the legislation the General Assembly unanimously passed allows judges to double and triple the sentences of career offenders. He said career offenders can have their sentences enhanced up to and including life in prison under the new legislation. He said when prosecutors use this legislation criminals can be put away for a long time.

Click the play arrow to watch Sen. Caligiuri talk about the coalition’s mission.