In one of the most emotional committee hearings of the entire session, a Senate committee voted to recommend approval of a “three-strikes” bill to send more violent repeat criminals to prison for life terms.
The vote in the Senate Public Affairs Committee came after hearing testimony in support of House Bill 56 by the mother of 4-year-old Lilly Garcia, who was shot and killed in an alleged road-rage incident last year, as well as the brother of Gregg “Nigel” Benner, a Rio Rancho police officer killed last year, and others who have lost loved ones to violent crimes.
“My daughter was 4 years old when she was shot in the head on Oct. 20 by an individual who should not have been out on the street,” Veronica Garcia told the committee.
It was not just those who have lost family members to crime who became emotional. Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel, referring to the wife of a slain Albuquerque police officer, said, “I held Michelle Webster in my arms when she had to make the decision to pull the plug on Daniel,” he said.
Officer Daniel Webster was shot during a traffic stop last October. He was in intensive care for about a week before he died.
The committee voted 6-2 for the bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque. Two Democrats joined the four Republicans on the panel in the vote, which means it will go on to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, successfully moved to amend the bill. The amendment means that in order to sentence a repeat felon, a judge would have to find that the offender had committed three violent crimes that had resulted in great bodily harm, crimes committed with the intent to cause great bodily harm, or crimes committed in a manner found to be violent.
Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, who voted against the bill, said, “I don’t believe [the bill] is going to fix anything.”
Committee Chairman Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, agreed, saying, “To send a person back to prison is a guarantee they won’t be rehabilitated.”