Cop’s death moves Ala. lawmakers to restrict use of ‘good time’ to shorten prison sentences

The man responsible had been released from prison in 2016 after serving a little more than three years of a 10-year sentence for manslaughter


By Mike Cason
al.com
        
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A north Alabama lawmaker wants to make inmates convicted of manslaughter ineligible for “good time,” a way to shorten prison sentences.

The bill is called the Sergeant Nick Risner Act, named after the 40-year-old Sheffield police officer who died Oct. 2, one day after he was shot while pursuing a suspect.

Brian Lansing Martin is charged with capital murder in the deaths of Risner and William Mealback Jr., as well as attempted murder in the shooting of Sheffield Police Lt. Max Dotson, who survived.

Sergeant Nick Risner died in October, a day after he was shot while pursuing Brian Lansing Martin.
Sergeant Nick Risner died in October, a day after he was shot while pursuing Brian Lansing Martin. (Twitter/Huntsville Police Department)

Martin had been released from prison in 2016 after serving a little more than three years of a 10-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of his father in 2011.

Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, has filed a bill in advance of the 2022 legislative session that would prohibit inmates convicted of manslaughter from receiving correctional incentive time, or “good time,” which allows prisoners to shorten their sentences if they stay out of trouble while incarcerated. The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Phillip Pettus, R-Killen, a retired state trooper.

Greer said others have helped develop the bill, including prosecutors and a former judge. Greer thinks it can pass.

Risner’s death sparked outrage because of the circumstances and because of Risner’s reputation as a public servant.

“It upset everybody,” Greer said. “I think he was a unique person from what I’ve been able to find out about him and everybody thought the world and all of him. When you just up and shoot a cop for no reason, that’s just bad news.”

Authorities say police pursued Martin after he shot Mealback and dumped him from Mealback’s car. They say Martin shot Risner and Dotson in an exchange of gunfire after the chase ended behind the old South Gate mall in Muscle Shoals. Martin was also wounded.

Martin is being held without bond. A district judge found probable cause for the capital murder charges after a preliminary hearing on Dec. 3 and sent the case to a Colbert County grand jury.

The Legislature approved the correctional incentive time law in 1980. The law says eligible inmates “whose record of conduct shows that he or she has faithfully observed the rules for a period of time ... may be entitled to earn a deduction from the term of his or her sentence.”

The law already excludes some inmates from receiving incentive time. Those convicted of Class A felonies or who have sentences longer than 15 years are not eligible. Those convicted of a sex offense involving a child are ineligible.

Greer’s bill would add manslaughter convictions to the list of disqualifiers for good time. Manslaughter is a Class B felony, punishable by two to 20 years.

“A lot of times you plea bargain to get manslaughter,” Greer said. “A plea bargain usually gets you considerably less years to serve. So I think it’s nothing but fair to say that it won’t count for manslaughter.”

The degree to which eligible prisoners can shorten their sentences through good time depends on how they are classified.

Class I prisoners can earn 75 days of credit for each 30 days served. Class II prisoners can earn 40 days credit for each 30 days served. Class III prisoners can earn 20 days for 30 days served. Class IV prisoners cannot accrue good time.

The legislative session begins Jan. 11.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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