Shooting death of police officer causes new push for tougher sentencing laws in Alabama


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — The recent death of a police officer is prompting calls for tougher sentencing laws in Alabama.

The latest push comes after Sheffield police officer Sgt. Nick Risner was shot and killed. Brian Lansing Martin, the man accused in his murder, was released from prison in 2016 after serving three years of a 10-year sentence for manslaughter.

“What we have now is that a crime victim hears that someone who is convicted serves this amount of time in jail and actually it’s nowhere near,” said Paul DeMarco, chair of the Jefferson County Republican Party and a former Alabama legislator.

DeMarco believes anyone convicted of a crime should serve their whole time with no chance for parole.

“So, whether it’s a violent crime or a non-violent crime, a judge can use that knowing I’m going to put this sentence out there and the crime victim will know this is the amount of time they should be serving,” he said.

But Democratic Sen. Rodger Smitherman said lawmakers in the state have no choice but to enact sentencing reforms due to a pending federal lawsuit over prison conditions.

“This is not about people’s feelings and opinions and legislator’s opinions and feelings. We have mandates from the federal court and if we don’t make sure we do that then they’ll come in and take over our system. They’ll come in and take over our system and they’ll do some releasing,” Smitherman said.

Recently, the Alabama Legislature has taken on more issues related to the criminal justice system. Following the kidnapping and death of Aniah Blanchard in 2019, the group went on to pass a bill called “Aniah’s Law” that would give judges more control over whether or not to deny bail to those accused of violent crimes. The bill will soon go before voters statewide.

Lawmakers will have a chance to address truth in sentencing laws when the regular session of the legislature convenes in January.

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