Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

MASSACHUSETTS SENTENCING AND PAROLE ARE CHANGED BY “THREE STRIKES” LAW FOR VIOLENT AND DRUG OFFENDERS

If you needed more evidence that the Commonwealth is in the mood to slam the cell doors shut on repeat violent offenders, you got it this week.

In Boston, Governor Deval Patrick held a private signing ceremony on Thursday to enact a law which removes the possibility of parole for certain repeat criminal offenders.

Among other advocates, present front and center was the man who championed the cause of this bill, Les Gosule. Mr. Gosule lost his daughter to the savage kidnap- rape-murder by such an offender in 1999. The bill suddenly gain new life after the murder nearly two years ago of Woburn Police Officer John “Jack” Maguire by a repeat offender.

Yes, that would be the one that brought about the dismantling and re-creation of the Parole Board about which there are complaints about folks entitled to parole not getting out.

Call it a “criminal justice ripple effect“.

The law, known as “Melissa’s Bill”, makes criminals who have been convicted three times of specific violent crimes ineligible for parole, forcing them to serve a full sentence, and enforces completion of previous sentences consecutive to completion of the latest sentence. Such laws are not new. In fact, 26 other states have their own such statutes. In ours, there is no judicial discretion allowed.

“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 governor said.

Yes, we can get to that later. No need to slow down progress with details.

“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,” Gosule said in a statement.

Interestingly, the law also changes sentencing for non-violent drug offenders. In the other direction. It is said to allow nearly 600 involuntary Commonwealth guests to be paroled.

That is…if the new Parole Board can catch up with all these reactive changes…!

Attorney Sam’s Take On Melissa’s Bill (Take One)

The late Winston Churchill was no doubt a great man and authority of the laws of Great Britain in the 1940’s. Things, however, have changed in the last seven decades. Especially over here in the “colonies”.

I might point to the fact that English law enforcement did not carry guns back then. Our police do.

I might even point out that there was no proof that innocent people are often accessed and convicted of violent crimes back then. There is now.

The statement, however, is still worthwhile to remember. However, it needs to be re-defined. After all, does one cease to be a citizen when one is accused of a crime? How about when convicted of a crime?

In this country, our founders believed that it was better to let several guilty people go free than to lock up one innocent man.

Of course, I believe most folks today, especially those unacquainted with the criminal justice system, would agree more quickly Mr. Gosule’s point than that old chestnut.

More on this new bill on Monday.

To read the articles upon which this blog was based, please go to http://www.boston.com/metrodesk/2012/08/02/deval-patrick-signs-repeat-offender-crime-bill-private-state-house-ceremony/rjms7x4ROPh2qcGvr2unLK/story.html and http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-08-02/news/sns-rt-us-usa-massachusetts-crime-billbre8711tt-20120802_1_massachusetts-governor-signs-habitual-offenders-habitual-offender

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