Bill makes school shooting deaths eligible for death penalty

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A person convicted of a fatal shooting on school grounds could face the death penalty under legislation proposed by an Indiana lawmaker.

Republican Sen. Brandt Hershman of Buck Creek says he authored the bill in response to the Jan. 21, 2014, slaying of Purdue University student Andrew Boldt in a crowded classroom.

Another student, Cody Cousins, pleaded guilty in August to fatally shooting and stabbing the West Bend, Wisconsin, student in a basement classroom of Purdue's Electrical Engineering Building. Cousins was sentenced to 65 years in prison but committed suicide in his cell in October.

Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington told the Journal & Courier ( ) that he couldn't seek the death penalty in Cousins' case due to a lack of "aggravating circumstances" under Indiana law.

Harrington said Hershman's bill would make a shooting at a school or university one of nearly 20 aggravating factors under which prosecutors can seek the death penalty or life without parole in murder cases. Other aggravating circumstances include murder in combination with another felony or killing more than one person or a law enforcement official.

"It's something the law needs to address, because when you go into a classroom and do something like this type of horrendous act, someone loses their life, but you have children or students that are basically victims, too, because they have to go through this," Harrington said.

Harrington said Cousins was aware that he wouldn't face the death penalty before he killed Boldt.

"He knew exactly what the punishment in Indiana was when killing someone, and to him it was worth it. The amount of time, 50 to 55 years in prison, didn't bother him," Harrington said. "What if he knew the death penalty was there in front of him?"

The bill has been assigned to the Senate judiciary committee.


Information from: Journal and Courier,

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