Hallelujah! Now lets see to it that our prosecutors and judges begin to use these sentencing laws to increase prison terms for violent crime and in doing so help prevent these offenders from harming more innocent people in the future.
The state of Connecticut now faces the crucial second phase of making certain that these new sentencing laws are not rendered near useless via our courts continued use of the plea bargain model as their primary means of adjudicating violent criminal cases.
What This means is that the violent felony charges that are eligible for the repeat offender rule, all violent crime charges (including home invasions that occur at night time here in Ct ) historically wind up routinely dropped down one level or more within plea deals, and once dropped down a level they fall out of eligibility for the repeat offender status. The repeat offender rule is concerned with the criminal charge that an offender is convicted of, not charged with and herein lies the problem of this kind of sentencing law.
The state of Connecticut Plea bargains approximately 96 percent of all its criminal cases,
a rather high proportion even in a country where plea bargaining has become the resolution of choice in many courtrooms, as opposed to pursuing a trial to determine guilt of the original charges. And thus, what began as a serious violent felony and in fact was a serious violent felony will almost always be reduced to either a lesser felony... or more often merely a misdemeanor.
This means that the end result will be that particular criminal's conviction record will only bear the results of that plea bargain, rather than what he or she was actually charged with, and more importantly-committed.
This is a double whammy of danger to the law abiding people of this state.
Another pertinent consideration in all of this is that most violent criminal cases involve multiple charges, one criminal event, but several laws broken within the commission of that criminal act. Ie Both defendants in the Petit crimes had histories of arrests with numerous charges per arrest. Now in this situation, one or more those multiple charges will be dropped completely, within the same plea bargain "process" described above. Poof , that charge is simply gone. Usually we'll only come to know about it when this same offender committs murder down the road and all of his arrest records are dredged up.
This is not the exception in Connecticut courts-it is the rule.
Statistically it is more than one charge that is dropped outright . And In the case of both defendants in the Petit murders, their litany of life time criminal convictions did not include several serious charges of which they were charged upon arrest; In one case ILLEGAL Gun possession, in another resisting arrest and a smattering of robbery charges were dropped for no apparent reason other than " THE DEAL"
The prosecutors office will invariably try to plea bargain a case rather than have to prepare for a time consuming trial. This way they will still obtain some kind of conviction" albeit charges and corresponding sentences for much less serious crimes than were actually committed. Its basically a compromise between prosecutor and the defendant's attorney-be it public defender or private.
The problems with plea bargaining violent crime are obvious but in situations where the original charges are eligible for repeat offender status these issues become augmented ten-fold;
each and every one of a criminal's serious charges have become diluted down as to no longer fall under the repeat offender statute,time and time again, rendering the repeat offender law pretty much moot within our Connecticut courts depending on the whim or conscience of the prosecutors office in charge of the case.
The answer lies in affording some kind of consistent accountability for our Connecticut prosecutors actions within the sea of plea bargains given to violent criminals every year.
For years I' ve been told there has existed an unspoken directive from somewhere high above our courts to only incarcerate the worst of the worst, our prisons were bulging with no relief in sight-other than to build another prison and that is another quandary with another set of problems for the state, not least withstanding, monetary. I cannot help but think that our judicial system could save money by handling non violent crimes in a less punitive manner ie avoid incarceration for crimes that are not pre-cursors to violence or further violence.
In any event It's clear that we need to bring some fresh thinking into our state's criminal courts. I believe that for our citizenry to be properly protected, our judicial system in Connecticut needs an overhaul in how they view and deal with violent crime. This must include the dismantling of the plea bargain model as the auto pilot choice for processing our states most serious crimes. This will mean hiring many more prosecutors and the re-training of existing prosecutors in becoming more trial ready.
If the crimes have yet to involve loss of life , it would seem that our state is too ready to deal even in instances of serious violence and even sex crimes that are often pre-cursors to These types of crimes often pinpoint criminal personality types that will often escalate to murder or at the very least- further violence.
This is an awesome responsibility in which our state has bungled badly in the past. It has only now come to the general public's attention because it has ended three times in one year in brutal loss of life to innocent citizens. There have been many, many other cases of violent criminals being sentenced irresponsibly with perhaps less drastic results, but always, there is a victim suffering at the nucleus of these crimes, as well other people at risk of becoming victims to this same offender, who was not sentenced or paroled responsibly.
I propose that we keep an eye and pressure on our courts and our legislators to make certain that they finish the good work they began back in January and May sessions. The actual implementation of these sentencing laws now rests within our Connecticut courts. We've had other sentencing laws that were admittedly never used in the past. We must stop the methods that have been proven to dis-serve the people of this state and learn from our tragic missteps of the past.
Deadly Home Invasion Leads To New Laws in Connecticut - NYTimes.com