WOONSOCKET – A sentencing reform bill sponsored by the controversial parole of convicted thrill-killer Alfred Brissette Jr. has been passed by the state Senate.
The measure would require individuals convicted of first- or second-degree murder to serve at least half their sentence prior to becoming eligible for parole, provided they haven’t been sentenced to life, which normally requires a minimum of 15 years behind bars.
Brissette, 39, of Woonsocket, was sentenced to serve 35 years of a 60-year sentence in the grisly 1999 bludgeoning murder of Jeanette Descoteaux in Burrillville. Despite an outcry from victim’s rights groups, Brissette was granted parole last month after serving less than a third of the time he was ordered to spend behind bars.
The lead sponsor of the bill, State Sen. Leonidas D. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), said Brissette was released because the parole board applied the prevailing minimum-time formula to the portion of his sentence that he was required to spend at the Adult Correctional Institutions. That formula currently requires convicted felons to finish out at least a third of their prison time before they are eligible for parole.
“Brissette was originally sentenced to 60 years, but required to serve 35,” Raptakis said in a press release. “The parole board applied the one-third eligibility rule to the 35 years rather than the 60.”
Raptakis said individuals convicted of homicide should be expected to serve “at the very least, no less than half their term.”
Senator Raptakis said that although he has introduced similar legislation in previous years, there is renewed urgency for enacting the law this year in light of Brissette’s recent parole. But he said there are other recent examples of questionable parole decisions involving convicted murderers, including that of Andrew Jett.
Jett was freed on parole after serving less than half of a 40-year sentenced he received in 1992 for killing his girlfriend. After he was released he was arrested again in August 2012 on charges of murdering another girlfriend.
“This bill is about proper justice and truth in sentencing,” said Raptakis. “The public expects that those convicted of such a violent crime as murder should do their time.
The Raptakis legislation now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Co-sponsors include Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick), Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), Sen. Marc A. Cote (D-Dist. 24, North Smithfield, Woonsocket) and Sen. Catherine Rumsey (D-Dist. 34, Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich).
An identical House bill introduced by Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick), is currently before the House Committee on Judiciary.
Brissette is one of two men who were convicted in the slaying of Descoteaux. Marc Girard is serving life plus 10 years for his role in the crime. They allegedly lured the woman from Woonsocket to a secluded fire lane in the George Washington Management Area of Burrillville where they beat her to death with a lug wrench and a camping shovel. A Supreme Court judge who heard Girard’s appeal in the case described Descoteaux’s murder as a thrill kill because the men had been planning to kill someone for months just to see how it felt to take a human life.
Brissette waived his appellate rights in the case because he pleaded no contest to second-degree murder, but Girard was convicted after a trial.