The New York State Senate has passed legislation to deny conditional releases for prisoners convicted of first-degree manslaughter following news that "Palm Sunday Massacre" killer Christopher Thomas was out of prison on such a discharge.
The bill, titled “S.8228,” has cleared the first of several hurdles to becoming law. It was introduced last month after InsideEdition.com broke the news of the Thomas’ release.
On April 20, Sen. Marty Golden of Brooklyn and Assemb. Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island and Brooklyn introduced the bill.
It passed the State Senate on May 1 by a vote of 50-13.
Malliotakis introduced the Assembly version on May 4. If passed, it will then be delivered to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who will either sign it into law or veto the bill.
On Palm Sunday 1984, Christopher Thomas entered a home in the East New York section of Brooklyn and opened fire, killing eight children and two women, one of whom was pregnant.
The sole-survivor was a 13-month-old infant who was later adopted by a police officer who responded to the grisly scene.
It was the largest mass shooting in New York City at the time.
Several weeks after the carnage, which was dubbed the "Palm Sunday Massacre," cops arrested Thomas. He was later convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 25 to 50 years prison in 1985.
Earlier this year, Thomas, now 68, was quietly released from prison after serving 33 years. He was denied parole five times prior to his release.
"This is mind boggling that a person, Chris Thomas, can kill 10 people — young children, 2 mothers — and be out. Mayor [Ed] Koch left the scene of the crime that night visibly shaken. This is horrendous," Sen. Golden told InsideEdition.com after his bill passed.
Sen. Golden, who represents Brooklyn’s 22nd district, said the "Palm Sunday Massacre" remains the “most heinous crime” he has ever seen in New York City.
He said that passing in the Assembly may be a challenge. However, he believes that if lawmakers see how the bill can help protect the families of the victims, it can get through to Gov. Cuomo.
"It is the right thing to do [to pass the bill] and defend those families," he added.
Should it not get passed, Sen. Golden posed this question to InsideEdition.com: "What message are we sending to the people of the greatest city in the greatest country in the world?"
Former NYPD Officer Bo Dietl, who arrested Thomas, expressed pleasure in hearing that the legislation passed in the State Senate.
"I hope that the New York Assembly ratifies it also," he told InsideEdition.com. "It is very exciting. I wish it was done before this freakin' creep that killed 10 people was let out. At least they got legislation now."
The proposal to the New York Penal Law will deem prisoners serving time for a first-degree manslaughter conviction ineligible for conditional discharge. Even with good behavior and two-thirds time served, like in Thomas' case, conditional discharge would not be awarded and they will have to serve the maximum 50-year sentence behind bars.
"If this was already the law, Christopher Thomas would never have been released," Assemb. Malliotakis told InsideEdition.com. "Someone who has killed 10 people — 8 children — should not be released on our streets."
She added that passing the bill and getting it to the governor will be an "uphill battle," adding, "a majority in the Assembly don't see it happening in the future."
New York State criminal defense attorney Ron Kuby, who has no connection to the case, says Thomas’ release was justified. In current New York State sentencing law, a convicted defendant can only serve 50 years unless they are given a life sentence, he said.
Thomas served two-thirds of his sentence in prison and was released due to good behavior.
“Had he been convicted of murder, even one count of murder, he might very well [still] be in prison," he said. “Presumably, a sentence that begins and ends in a number means that you will be released one day. A sentence that ends in the word 'life' means that you may never be released. And those two really shouldn’t be conflated as much as people really want [them] to."
But Kuby added that the bill proposed by Golden and Malliotakis is "a bad idea in general."
"Legislation for thousands of people as a knee-jerk spasm for a decision you don't like is always a bad idea," he said.
He says that allowing prisoners to accrue good time behind bars is something that helps "maintain order in a prison and gives a person a goal to work toward."