Melissa’s Law Signed By Gov. Deval Patrick

Gov. Deval Patrick signed Melissa’s Law, a tough new “three strikes” crime law, in Massachusetts Thursday, according to the Chicago Tribune. The law makes criminals who have been convicted three times of specific violent crimes ineligible for parole. They are also forced to serve a full sentence, as well as complete any previous sentences consecutive to completion of the latest sentence.

The law was named for Melissa Gosule, a Massachusetts teacher who was kidnapped, raped and murder by a repeat offender out on parole. The 27-year-old was killed by Michael Gentile, a criminal who was previously released after serving only two years for 27 prior penalties. Melissa’s father, Lee Gosule, pushed to have the bill passed for 13 years.

Gosule said in a statement,

“Winston Churchill said that government’s first duty is to protect the physical safety of its citizens. Melissa’s Law will begin to save lives, and save innocent people from injury, as soon as it’s signed.”

Massachusetts joins 26 other states that have a some type of habitual-offender law. The bill also reforms sentencing for non-violent drug offenders. Patrick said that would allow nearly 600 prisoners to be paroled.

Support for the bill increased after veteran police officer John Maguire was killed in 2010 by a repeat offender who was on parole after being sentenced to three life terms.

Gov. Patrick signed the bill into law in a private ceremony, much to the dismay of Maguire’s brother, Charles. According to the Boston Globe, Charles Maguire said,

“I was really caught off guard by it, if you want to know the truth. He [Patrick] said he was happy with the bill and then he signs it in a cloak-and-dagger deal. I don’t know where that came from. If he didn’t want to sign it, then don’t sign it.’’

Maguire said the lack of a public ceremony was a disappointment and left a bad taste in his mouth.

The bill has also received criticism from those who say three-strike requirement doesn’t include judicial discretion.

Patrick said,

“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.”

The repeat offender aspects of Melissa’s Law will affect fewer than eight people a year, and will not have a substantive effect on people who have been in the correction system for 25 years.