Gov. Deval Patrick set in motion a wave of criticism when he vetoed the popular "three strikes" crime bill on the grounds that it lacked sufficient provisions for judicial discretion.
Warning of possible unintended "unjust consequences" that can arise from mandatory sentencing laws, Patrick wrote in a letter to the Legislature, "None of us is wise or prescient enough to foresee each and every circumstance in which the new habitual offender provisions may apply."
But critics accuse Patrick of vetoing a good anti-crime bill by asking for amendments that only protect offenders.
"Governor Patrick has had a busy week defending the interests of those who break the law...," said Sen. Bruce Tarr, the state senate's minority leader. "His actions to jeopardize the passage of the crime bill are both ill-timed and ill-advised by trying to amend a good and balanced bill with an extraordinary measure to protect repeat violent criminals, with precious little time remaining in the legislative session."
The state's largest police union, the New England Police Benevolent Association, also had strong words for the governor: "The Governor's actions at the 11th hour are reprehensible and reckless. It will be on his conscience 'when'—not if—the next innocent victim or public safety officer is killed in the line of duty by a career criminal, if he fails to sign this bill which is designed to protect the most vulnerable from serial predators."
Dubbed "Melissa's Law," after Melissa Gosule, the 27-year-old Jamaica Plain schoolteacher who was raped and murdered in 1999 by a felon who had 27 previous convictions, the bill eliminates parole for someone convicted three times of one of 40 or so violent crimes, with at least one conviction having carried a minimum three-year prison term. It was was .
But the bill did , which urged the Legislature to write in more judicial control, , who voted with Massachusetts Black and Latino Caucus, and said the bill lacks evidence-based solutions, removes judicial discretion, and does not elimination mandatory minimums on nonviolent offenses. The caucus also says the bill will cost the state more than $100 million over the next 10 to 15 years.
The Legislature has Monday and Tuesday—the end of the Legislative session—to try to override Patrick or to present him with a bill he will sign.