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State Representative Proposes Death Penalty Bill

February 26, 1998
By: Katina McCoy
MDN Columbia Bureau

A Marshall, Missouri, mother returns home from a teachers conference to discover that her husband has murdered their seven year old son. T.J. Simington, had stabbed young Tate last year.

Friends and neighbors can't believe that this former middle school counselor was capable of such a crime. Simington awaits trial while legislation is underway to toughen death penalty laws.

State Representative Cindy Ostmann wants a law that allows a person convicted of murdering a child twelve years or younger to be eligible for the death penalty.

Rachel Ravenhill lives in the same block where the crime was committed.

"What happened to Tate should never have happened," Ravenhill says. "Maybe a law such as this one will give this crime and others like it the serious review it warrants. Stronger, more progressive legislation will be a positive step toward vindicating Tate's death."

Ostmann, a St. Charles Republican, wrote this bill in January after the murder of an eight year old girl in Ostmann's hometown.

The mother of two says,"Brutal crimes committed upon children are great injustices to society."

Recently, Ostmann requested a committee hearing for this bill. She is waiting for a response from her colleagues. Ostmann hopes debate over this issue will start soon.

Ravenhill is now a political science major at the M-U who intends to go to law school.

She says, "We must encourage laws that punish the murders of minors with equal vigor as the murders of adults."

A Kansas City attorney disagrees with the death penalty. David Smalley is in his twenty-fifth year of practicing law and has always opposed the death penalty.

Smalley says, "It's a matter of fundamental human rights. It comes down to this: two wrongs do not make a right. They never have and they never will."

Smalley sympathizes with the Simington family, but feels that the death penalty would produce more harm than good.

Smalley says, "...it is not reasonable for the state to bathe its hands in the blood of a murderer by trying to wash away the injustice that was allegedly committed."

Smalley believes that rehabilitation is better.

Smalley says, "It is my contention that criminals need and deserve help. Everyone should be entitled to an opportunity for positive change. The death penalty offers no hope for this."