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Legislature sends ‘Nick Risner’ bill to governor

By MARY SELL and MADDISON BOOTH, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, ALA. – Those convicted of killing others with a gun or knife will no longer be eligible for early release under a bill passed by the Legislature Thursday evening.

House Bill 143, the Sgt. Nick Risner Act, received final passage in the Senate and House while the family of the Sheffield officer killed in the line of duty looked on. Earlier in the day, Risner was honored with the state’s highest law enforcement award on the House floor.

Risner’s alleged killer had served about three years of a 10 year sentence because he got the “good time” credit.

The bill by Rep. Phillip Pettus, R-Green Hill, has been a priority for Shoals lawmakers.

“This bill was extremely important for the area, to the Risner family, but more importantly, to prevent these things in the future,” Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, who carried the bill in the Senate. “We had a guy out of prison who never should have been out of prison and it resulted in two more people’s deaths.”

Current “good time” reductions allow prisoners to earn time off their sentences with good behavior.

Risner was shot and killed in October, allegedly by Brian Lansing Martin, who had previously served just over three years of a ten year sentence for killing his father.

Currently, prisoners who have been convicted of Class A felony, convicted of a sex offense involving a minor, or sentenced to more than 15 years or death are not eligible for good time. Pettus’ bill originally added those convicted in killings to that list.

On the Senate floor, Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, added an amendment to the bill to narrow its focus, specifying that the killing occurs “by means of a deadly weapon.” That means good time would still be available to those convicted in deaths without weapons, including vehicular homicides.

Pettus recently talked to Risner’s mother. Parents aren’t supposed to lose their children, he said.

“I told her I hope this bill stops any mother, any wife, any daughter, any father, any son from having to go through this ever again,” he said.

Risner was honored by lawmakers in a ceremony Thursday with the 2022 Alabama Legislative Medal of Honor. Sheffield Lt. Max Dotson, who was also allegedly shot twice in the chest by Martin, but was wearing his bullet-proof vest, was also honored at the State House event.

“Sgt. Risner took (his oath) wholeheartedly and served faithfully,” Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Hal Taylor said on the House floor.

William Mealback Jr. was also allegedly shot and killed by Martin. Risner and other law enforcement were responding when Risner was killed.

Martin was indicted by a Colbert County Grand Jury in January. His arraignment is set for April 28, according to the TimesDaily.

The bill now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature.

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