BOSTON (FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) – Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has signed Melissa's Bill, a bill that targets three-time convicted violent felons, after a 13-year fight.
A spokeswoman for the governor said Patrick signed the bill Thursday morning in a private ceremony in his Statehouse office. The signing was not listed on his schedule and there was no public announcement prior to the event.
Les Gosule, the father of crime victim Melissa Gosule has been fighting for this for more than a dozen years. Melissa Gosule was raped and murdered in 1999 by a man with 27 prior convictions
Les Gosule was among those present for the signing. He then went to Sharon Memorial Park Cemetery to visit the grave of his daughter.
However, the ceremony did not include the family of Woburn Police Officer Jack Maguire who was also murdered by a violent repeat offender.
FOX 25's Sharman Sacchetti asked the governor why Maguire's family was not invited to attend. The governor responded that it is not protocol to hold ceremonies for every bill that is signed into law.
"I think for him [Chuck Maguire, the victim's brother] and for many victims and for many of those who have advocated for the change in the non-violent drug sentencing law, the most important thing is the law is now law," Gov. Patrick said.
A couple of hours after the governor privately signed the bill into law, he appeared alongside kitten and puppies and animal rights advocated to sign an animal welfare bill in Ashland.
For years, Melissa's Bill languished on Beacon Hill. It wasn't until the 2010 shooting death of Officer Maguire by a parolee that the bill gained the renewed traction it needed on Beacon Hill.
Chuck Maguire told FOX 25 that he would have liked to be at the ceremony.
Governor Patrick had objected to the lack of judicial discretion in the sentencing of habitual offenders. He first sent the bill back to lawmakers with an amendment giving judges more discretion for sentencing. Lawmakers rejected his amendment and sent back the bill with the original language.
The governor, who had praised other elements of the legislation, then announced his intention to sign the bill.
The bill passed by lawmakers in the final days of the session reduces some mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders.
The law takes effect immediately.
Statement by Les Gosule:
After a thirteen year struggle to achieve this new public safety law, I want to first dedicate this victory to my daughter, Melissa. Melissa, this one's for you. In your life, you always cared and did good things for others. May your death also bring some good to others through this new law.
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.
To violent criminals and their apologists who complain that this law is too harsh, I say: "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime". If you don't want to go to prison under this law, take responsibility for your actions and refrain from committing multiple acts of violence. It's that simple.
There are so many people to thank for the achievement of Melissa's Law. But today I want to especially thank Governor Deval Patrick. He kept his promise to me that he would sign a fair and balanced bill. We have disagreed at times, but there is no doubt the Governor is a man of personal integrity.
I want to thank all the thousands of ordinary citizens who demanded passage of this common sense legislation. And thank you to all the legislators who listened to their constituents and put the needs of public safety above the interests of the criminal defense industry.
This victory just goes to show that it's still possible for the good guys to win, and that good things can still come out of Beacon Hill!
Thanks to everyone who helped in any way. I hope to thank everyone publicly and personally in the days and weeks ahead.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)