Oct 18, 2008

Petit family campaigns for 3 Strikes Law Redux

One has to be impressed with the Petit family's tenacity insofar as their inexhaustive championing of a three strikes law for the state of Connecticut.

Dr William Petit, as most of us know, lost his wife and two daughters in a violent home invasion that occurred in Cheshire
last July. The two men who committed the murders each had over 20 felony convictions on their individual records, and were both on parole when the murders occurred, one, after serving just over a third of his original sentence!

The older of the two defendants, Steven Hayes, had a history of breaking the terms of his parole each and every time he'd been granted it. He also had numerous write ups in a recent halfway house stint the last of which resulted in his being returned to prison. Three months later he was granted parole nonetheless.

Last year, following the scrutiny of this brutal crime's aftermath, and a subsequent state-wide push for a three strikes sentencing law, there was heard a constant refrain from many democratic legislators (with judiciary committee co-chair Mike lawlor somehow always loudest and always leading the pack ) they claimed that "A three strikes law would not have prevented the Petit crimes from happening anyway had it been in existence at the time !" Albeit a moot point in the grand scheme of things, it was still only partly true and misleading at that: The crime of night time home break ins or robbery when the home owner was in the home, was not considered a violent or serious felony prior to the Petit crimes.
Using common sense as a guide, it clearly should have been considering the potential for violence. But as it was, it was a felony that at that time would not qualify as a "strike" under most of the proposed versions of the various three strikes bills bandied about in last years legislative sessions.

This is pertinent because Mr Komisarjevsky, co defendant in the Petit murderers (and considered the probable mastermind of the crimes), had created for himself a specialty of sorts, committing just such break-ins, citing to police that he "didn't get a rush if people weren't home when he broke in' .
He had over 23 convictions across several counties for this type of burglary, almost all of them committed while the homeowner were home and sleeping- nonetheless in Connecticut at least it had been rather recklessly treated as a lower level non-violent felony, despite all of our hard won knowledge regarding criminal psychology and the evolution of predators.

After the Petit crimes the Connecticut General Assembly was prompted to create a new crime of "home invasion " ,which they defined as any residential break in that is committed at night, a time when presumably most people are in their homes, the thinking being that this increases
the likelihood of a confrontation and the potential for violence and loss of life is thus very high.

Many people, including myself, were very disappointed that Connecticut legislators did not see fit to re-categorize all break ins as home invasions, This would have automatically qualified any illegal break in into our home as a class b (ie violent) felony, which had the duofold benefit of carrying the accompanying severe prison sentence as well as qualifying as a strike under the sates repeat offender law.. This would make a clear statement that our homes are sacred and off limits and if you break into a home for self preservation we will have to consider your motive as being the most sinister; rape murder assault.or all of these.
At the very least as a compromise the state could have designated any home break that occurs at night or when the resident is in the home, as an automatic home invasion/class b violent felony.

All of this simply follows the logic that many folks do not work a 9 to 5 schedule, including third shift employees, stay at home moms and other such retired residents .This adds up to plenty of innocent people being in their homes during daylight hours. Despite several versions of the home invasion law that did include similar provisions, the nighttime version was the one that passed muster.

And as if the universe were conspiring to send just such a terrible message- just months after all of the legislative wrangling, a fatal daytime home invasion occurred in a middle class suburb of New Britain ; Two elderly women enjoying an after church brunch were home invaded,robbed and one shot in her head and left for dead. The second woman was then abducted by the intruder who had just shot her friend, she was sexually assaulted and then shot herself, her body dumped in some bushes some 20 miles from her home.
The home invader/ murderer..? A newly paroled felon with a criminal history that included
a sexual assault of a 10 year old child. Another Predator on parole.

Now bear in mind that A three strikes proposal calls for SEVERE life sentence after a third violent felony conviction . A conviction is not an arrest or a charge, And yes there is a big distinction; The average number of crimes actually committed by a defendant before he/she is actually convicted of one, is ridiculously high in our state, this is largely due to the inordinately high number of plea bargains, Nollie's and dropped cases in so many Connecticut courts.
There are an inordinate amount of what amounts to "freebie" crimes that simply fall by the wayside within what has become Connecticut's administrative processing of, rather than adjudication of, even our most serious crimes.

Case in point: Joshua Komsiarjevsky was convicted for over 22 home break ins/ robberies,
most of which, as I mentioned, were committed while the unsuspecting home owner was in the home- a dangerous scenario indeed. !
His eventual plea deal involved dropping outright a total of 14 charges within the "deals" that he was given. An entire crime spree in one separate jurisdiction was dropped and he was given "time served" for that succession of robberies, this for the short time that he was in jail awaiting trial on a separate set of break-ins.

This same offender was also given a number of breaks by various police departments who handled his multiple arrests and the drawing up of his warrants; They could have easily charged him with several other crimes within his robbery sprees, serious crimes, such as stalking, To which he freely admitted doing with his robbery targets, prior to breaking in to their home. He sometimes even used tools which hed ordered on the Internet, such as night vision goggles in order to watch his targets from their own yards.
Yet possibly due to his young age or perhaps his families roots within the community, this offender was not even charged with every crime that he actually committed and was given big breaks all the way from his arrests to his plea deals in court to his prison sentences, and eventual early parole- A parole that was clearly ill advised, not just in hindsight due to the Petit murders, but based upon the fact that it was approved by the Connecticut parole board with a scant amount of his criminal history files or sentencing reports-oversights that were not exclusive to this case,we were to learn in the wake of the Cheshire crimes.
It had been going on for years and indeed had become the status quo.

Three people are now dead as a result of the many criminal/ judicial leniency's and oversights, most of which would seem built- in to our present Connecticut judicial system.
However there are many other victims of this very same system, this set of crimes were just so glaringly over the top brutality-wise that they begged us all to peer into the system that allowed it to happen. What we found was preposterous.

As such, no one can blame the lone survivor of these murders, a man who not only lost his family, but was assaulted so severely himself, that he nearly died---for trying to spearhead a better more rigid sentencing system for our state? A system not built around a revolving door for dangerous repeat offenders to brutalize more people, destroy more lives.
It is too late for Dr Petits wife and daughters but it is not too late for the many others who will be victims if nothing changes.

For concerned citizens who would like to support a three strikes sentencing law, or at least
find out more about it, Please follow this link, read the accompanying info and hopefully add your name to the list of supporters.www.threestrikesnow.com/


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