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Markie’s Law vetoed by Gov. Wolf

Rep. Aaron Bernstine

Markie’s Law, legislation sponsored by state Rep. Aaron Bernstine, R-10th, which aimed to keep violent inmates in jail longer, has been vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf.

The bill would have delayed consideration of a violent prisoner's parole by 24 months after their minimum release date for each conviction of an incarcerated violent offense.

The bill was passed in the Senate by a 41-9 vote, and the House concurred with the Senate’s changes by a 133-69 vote.

The bill also would suspend consideration of an inmate’s parole by 12 months if the inmate attempts escape, smuggles contraband or intimidates witnesses during incarceration.

“I am upset, disappointed and disgusted with the governor’s decision to veto this important, common-sense legislation,” Berstine said in a news release. “This bill would have kept the most dangerous inmates from a premature release in order to protect our commonwealth residents and would have saved Markie’s life.”

The legislation was named after Markie Mason, an 8-year-old boy who was stabbed and killed by Keith Burley on July 8, 2019, in Union Township, Lawrence County.

Burley abducted Markie, who was the son of Burley’s girlfriend at the time, following a domestic dispute four months after Burley’s release from 20 years in prison on a murder conviction. This came even after Burley was found guilty of two separate assaults of other inmates while in prison.

The parole board had determined prior to his release that Burley was not a threat to the public once he finished his minimum sentence.

In Wolf’s veto message, he said the legislation was “misguided” and “does not promote public safety.”

Bernstine disagrees. “Had this animal who murdered Markie Mason remained behind bars, (Markie) would still be alive today. How does this bill not promote public safety? The legislation is all about keeping criminals locked up so they can’t be harmful to society.”

Bernstine said he will continue his fight to protect the public from violent offenders.

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