The Junior League, the Correctional Association of New York and two lawmakers teamed up today to promote legislation that would give judges discretion to reduce sentences of people convicted of a crime directly related to domestic violence.
Kim Dadou of Rochester, who spent 17 years in prison for fatally shooting her boyfriend, said the bill “is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card.” It’s about being humane to survivors of domestic violence, she said. She had been abused by her boyfriend for years.
“I was in the courtroom getting orders of protection just a couple months before I was in the courtroom being charged with murder. This isn’t something that I planned,” she said at a news conference in the Legislative Office Building today.
Senate sponsor Ruth Hassell-Thompson, D-Mount Vernon, Westchester County, said some people believe the language of the bill is too broad and people who have been convicted of a crime shouldn’t be able to petition the court for re-sentencing.
“The bill gives a judge the discretion to either grant a petiton for a reduced sentence or reject the applicatoin because there is insufficient evidence that a reduced sentence is warranted,” she said. “This means that a frivolous petition would end up in the garbage. But a reasonable argument will receive the consideration that it duly deserves.”
The legislation proposes making the law retroactive “because we believe that justice should not be chained by illusionary time restraints.”
Hassell-Thompson said there is a three-pronged test for eligibility that is spelled out in the bill. At the time of the offense, domestic-violence victim must have been subjected to substantial physical, psychological or sexual abuse by a spouse, intimate partner or relative. A victim must show that the abuse was a significant contributing factor to the crime and that a sentence under normal sentencing provisions would be unduly harsh, she said.
Dadou said she doesn’t want anyone to have to go through what she went through at trial, in prison and after her release. “The system discriminates so much against a person with a violent felony. I’m not a violent person. I have a violent conviction, and for that, it seems that there is a cloud just over my head,” she said.
This is Dadou speaking at today’s news conference.