Tuesday July 31, 2012

BOSTON (AP) -- The state Legislature on Monday soundly rejected Gov. Deval Patrick's proposed amendment to a bill barring parole for individuals convicted of three serious violent crimes, leaving the fate of the bill in doubt as the legislative session neared an end.

Patrick's safety valve amendment, filed Saturday, would have provided judges with limited discretion to allow parole for three-time violent felons who have served two-thirds of their maximum prison sentence or after they served 25 years of a life sentence.

The House rejected the amendment on a 132-23 vote after about an hour of debate. The Senate defeated the measure later in the day.

Earlier Monday, the Democ ratic governor wouldn't say whether he planned to veto the bill if it returned to his desk without the amendment, but he strongly defended his proposed change.

"I'm not playing games. I want this bill done this session. There have been a lot of people working on this for a long, long time. It will be a better bill if there is judicial discretion," Patrick said.

If the governor chooses to veto the bill after the close of the legislative session at midnight today, it would prevent lawmakers from taking a possible override vote.

Critics of the judicial discretion amendment said it would gut the intention of the "three strikes" provision, which is aimed at cracking down on the state's most violent career criminals.