Commentary by Missouri State Senator Jay Wasson (R-20/Nixa)
Majority Caucus Chairman
On Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2014, hundreds of citizens in Springfield gathered outside the funeral of Hailey Owen, a 10-year-old girl from our region who was abducted and brutally murdered on Feb. 18. Hailey was kidnapped while walking home from her best friendís house. An alert went out, but it was too late. Law enforcement found her body the same day. Within hours, a suspect was apprehendedóa middle school football coach from a nearby school.
I donít have the words to express the sadness of this horrific tragedy. Hailey was a bright, lovely little girl, and her loss is being felt throughout our community. The taking of a human life has been called the ultimate crime, but I donít think thereís anything worse than the murder of a child. The innocent should be spared from the horrors of the world, but all too often, they are its victims. I canít fathom what kind of person could do this.
I do know, though, that those who commit these crimes against children should be brought to justice as quickly as possible. In Missouri, we punish the most heinous of crimes with the death penalty. I support that, especially for those who would kill a child. While I fully believe every criminal is entitled to due process under our judicial system, I donít think a person who kills a child should get to sit on death row for years and years while appeals crawl through the courts.
This is why I was proud to sign on to Senate Bill 945 this week. The legislation limits the court extensions and exceptions granted in appeals for death penalty cases in which the defendant kidnapped the victim before causing his or her death. Basically, the bill would put an end to the long, drawn out appeals process that allows a child murderer to live on death row for decades.
As a state, we need to send a message that if a criminal is found guilty of kidnapping and murdering a child, justice will be carried out swiftly under the law. I hope the measure moves quickly through the legislative process.
In other news, the financial and governmental and elections committee, which I chair, conducted a hearing on a bill that would extend the deadline for recently discharged military members to register to vote. Senate Bill 631 would give them until 5 p.m. the Friday before the election to register.
The legislation acknowledges that for a soldier returning home, after months away from family and friends, registering to vote might not be their first priority. I think this is understandable. If there was ever a group of people who deserve an exception to the deadline on registering to vote, itís the men and women who defended that right with their life. Iím optimistic that once the measure reaches the floor, my colleagues will work together to give military members every chance to take part in the democratic institutions they protect.