ALBANY, N.Y. — It’s “total insanity” that a man who killed eight children and two women in a New York City home 34 years ago was freed from prison recently because of a loophole in state law, two Republican lawmakers said Tuesday while introducing legislation aimed at halting such conditional releases.
Christopher Thomas, 68, was released from a maximum-security prison in upstate New York in early January. In 1985, he was convicted of first-degree manslaughter for the Brooklyn mass shooting that became known as the Palm Sunday Massacre.
After his 1985 trial, some jurors said they convicted him of manslaughter, not murder, because his heavy cocaine use was a factor in the crimes. Prosecutors said Thomas was a drug dealer with a cocaine habit when he entered the home on April 15, 1984, and shot eight children, ages 4 to 14, and two women, ages 18 and 24.
At his sentencing, Thomas was received 10 consecutive prison terms of 25 years for a total of 250 years. The current state law caps that sentence at 50 years. Because he was convicted of first-degree manslaughter and not murder, Thomas was eligible for release after serving 33 years, with time off for good behavior.
Under legislation introduced by state Sen. Martin Golden of Brooklyn and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island, anyone convicted of first-degree manslaughter would be denied a conditional release such as what Thomas was granted.
“To this day, I can remember” the Palm Sunday Massacre, said Golden, a former New York City police officer who retired from the force a year before the slayings. “The state statute is flawed.”
“It is total insanity that a man who murdered eight children and two adults has now been released back onto our streets,” Malliotakis said.
Golden and his fellow Republicans control the 63-seat Senate — for now. If the Democratic candidates in two special elections Tuesday in the Bronx and Westchester County are winners, Democrats and the GOP would each hold 31 seats. Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder of Brooklyn now sits with Republicans, meaning the GOP could retain control even if Democrats win a numeric majority.
Malliotakis said she hadn’t found a Democratic sponsor in the Democrat-controlled Assembly, but felt confidant she could find support from among the chamber’s many lawmakers from New York City.