(Photo: parents of Derrick Robie)
Albany, N.Y., May 26—Earlier this month, State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) joined legislative colleagues and family members of murder victims, including the parents of Derrick Robie of Savona (Steuben County), to call for the approval of legislation they co-sponsor that would allow the state Parole Board to extend the time period that murderers and other violent felony offenders have to wait to apply for a parole hearing.Now they’re criticizing the leadership of the Democrat-controlled Assembly for not allowing the legislation to be voted on by the full Assembly. Earlier this week, Palmesano said that the legislation was held in the Assembly Correction Committee, effectively ensuring that it won’t be acted on by the Assembly this session. The Senate has consistently approved the legislation, with strong bipartisan support.
In a joint statement, O’Mara and Palmesano said, "It’s disappointing, it’s frustrating, and it’s just not right. Once again, the Democratic leadership of the State Assembly has turned its back on the families of murder victims. The Assembly leadership’s inaction on this legislation means that Dale and Dori Robie and so many other families have to go on, every other year, reliving the pain and the horror of the crimes that took the lives they cherished. This is a reasonable piece of legislation that would be approved and enacted into law if the full Assembly was allowed to vote on it. Where’s the leadership’s sense of justice? Where’s the compassion for these families? Sadly, it's where it usually is with the New York City leadership in the Assembly, with the criminal rather than the crime victim."
Palmesano and O’Mara vowed to keep fighting for the legislation’s enactment.
"We’re not going to go away and we’re going to keep standing with Dale and Dori Robie until this legislation becomes law. Sooner or later, the Assembly leadership has to recognize the decency and fairness behind this legislation, and let it become law." Palmesano and O’Mara said.
Currently, the state Parole Board is required to allow inmates to request a parole hearing every two years. Under the legislation (S.1483-A/A.1680-A) O’Mara and Palmesano are co-sponsoring, the Parole Board would be allowed to extend the time period between parole hearings from two to five years for offenders convicted of any of the following categories of violent felony offenses: Class A-1 felonies of murder in the first or second degrees where a sentence other than life imprisonment without parole is imposed, and Class A-II felonies of predatory sexual assault and predatory sexual assault against a child. The board would still be given the option to permit an earlier hearing.
The legislation is sponsored by Senator Kenneth P. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I,D,WF-Sag Harbor). The legislation has strong bipartisan support in the Assembly with a total of 54 sponsors, including the entire Assembly Republican conference.
Sponsors and supporters of the measure, including Dale and Dori Robie, Derrick’s parents, who appeared at a May 3rd news conference in Albany to urge action this year, argue that the longer time frame would help spare the families of victims from having to repeatedly, every two years, relive the events that took the lives of their loved ones -- as well as to further help prevent any chance that a heinous criminal will be granted an unwarranted, early release from prison.
At the May 3rd news conference, the Dale and Dori Robie said, "We are in total support of this important legislation and appreciate the efforts being made by state legislators to have it become law. We are committed to working with them to secure its enactment in Derrick's memory and so that other families like ours, whose lives have been forever changed by a violent criminal, do not have to relive their ordeal every two years."