Purdue University shooter’s sentence sparks push to change state law

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By Kendall Downing

LAFAYETTE, Ind. - It's a shocking crime that rocked Purdue University. Now the murder of teaching assistant Andrew Boldt inside a campus classroom could spark a change in state law.

Friday a judge gave the gunman, Cody Cousins, the maximum sentence, 65 years in prison.

Both the prosecutor and one state lawmaker now believe that's not enough.

Many have asked why prosecutors did not seek the death penalty in the case. The answer is simple. State statute would not allow them to do so.

There's a list of 16 aggravating circumstances that make a killing eligible for capital punishment. A school shooting is not on the list.

"It's not recognized in our state law if a person goes into a school of any sorts," said Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington at Cousins' sentencing on Friday.

Still Tuesday, Harrington called the case eye-opening. He said the toughest sentence he could ask for wasn't tough enough.

"The hardest thing I had explaining to this family was how in Indiana, we don't recognize this type of violent crime as an aggravator," he said.

But it could all change at the hands of state lawmakers.

"I think they're asking a reasonable question, whether the penalty received was sufficient for an act like this," said State Sen. Brandt Hershman, who represents District 7.

Hershman said the Cody Cousins case is one lawmakers should study. He's starting the conversation now among prosecutors, police, and attorneys. Hershman said a crime targeted at a classroom is especially heinous.

"I think it's worthy of examination of whether this should have fallen under a death penalty offense or life without parole or whether there should have been an additional enhancement made to prosecutors," said Hershman.

With good behavior, Cody Cousins could walk free by age 52. For Harrington, that's a call to action.

"He killed a human being, and he victimized people in a classroom. It should be a higher range of sentence, 75 to 100 years. It should be an aggravator that we consider for life without parole or the death penalty," Harrington said Friday.

Senator Hershman told FOX59 on Tuesday that the talks are just starting. Hershman said he does hope to have a bill filed to address the issue by the start of the legislative session in January.