Skip to comments.Simmons rejoices in life while victim's family decries court ruling
Posted on 03/01/2005 7:53:34 PM PST by Pikamax
Simmons rejoices in life while victim's family decries court ruling
DAVID A. LIEB
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Eight months has made a lifetime of difference for Christopher Simmons.
Because Simmons was less than eight months shy of 18 when he tossed a woman to her death in a murky river, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that he cannot be executed for the murder.
The court's ruling in Simmons' case also spared the life of 72 death row inmates nationally who were younger than 18 when they committed their crimes, and bars states from seeking to execute minors for future crimes.
For Simmons, now 28, it means a long life in prison - for which he is eternally grateful. Learning of the court decision from a television report at the Bonne Terre state prison, Simmons tried unsuccessfully to call his family, then got through to one of his attorneys.
"The first thing he said was, 'Thank you very, very much,'" said Kansas City attorney Pat Berrigan.
Berrigan said Simmons had been praying fervently for the nation's high court to uphold a decision of the Missouri Supreme Court that banned juvenile executions. "I think he sees some of God's work in this result," Berrigan said.
In its 5-4 ruling, the high court said the execution of juvenile offenders violates the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling invalidated the practice of 19 states and upheld a 2003 decision of the Missouri court that overturned Simmons' death sentence.
Shirley Crook was duct-taped over the mouth and eyes during a 1993 burglary by Simmons and 15-year-old Charles Benjamin, then taken from her home, hogtied and shoved off a train trestle into the Meramec River. Prosecutors contended Simmons believed he could escape punishment because he was a juvenile, something Simmons later denied.
The U.S. Supreme Court majority cited the "instability and emotional imbalance" of young people while concluding that society views juveniles as "less culpable than the average criminal."
But Crook's relatives don't believe that's the case.
"We felt it was a cold-blooded murder, and as person at 17 years and (several) months, he knew what he was doing," said Tom Mitchell, whose wife, Pertie, is Crook's sister. "I don't know that life in prison is ever considered a pass, but he's not having to pay the same penalty that he caused Pertie's sister to pay."
Jefferson County Prosecutor Bob Wilkins, who took office just months after Simmons' trial, said he still believes it is appropriate to allow the death penalty for some teenage murderers.
"If any case ever was deserving of the death penalty, this was it," Wilkins said. "It was one of the most heinous offenses that any of us ever are going to see."
Yet Wilkins acknowledged that it always seemed a little inequitable for Simmons to get the death sentence while his co-defendant got life in prison because of a previous Supreme Court precedent limiting the death penalty to those 16 and older.
In January, Simmons was transferred from the Potosi state prison, where executions are held, to the Bonne Terre prison where Benjamin resides. They now live in the same cell block, Benjamin said in a telephone interview Tuesday from prison, and they occasionally have talked about their different fates. While Simmons wanted to live, Benjamin said he would have preferred to be executed.
Yet "maybe one of the youngsters out there someday will look back in time and see what happened to me and what happened to Chris and think, 'That's not really how I want to do things,'" Benjamin said.
While housed at the Potosi prison, Simmons become an active Christian, joined several prison ministry and youth programs and helped as a hospice aide caring for inmates with AIDS, Berrigan said.
Missouri has no other juveniles on death row. But Tuesday's ruling still had immediate an affect on at least one other Missouri case.
Had the Supreme Court upheld juvenile executions, St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said he would have sought the death penalty for Rodney Allen, who faces two murder charges for the July garage sale shootings of John Strasburger III and Fletcher Coates. Allen was 16 years old at the time.
Years ago, I read the Missouri Supreme Court's opinion in this case, which upheld Simmons' conviction and (at the time) upheld the death penalty in his case. It is truly one of the most horrifying things I've ever read. Simmons' callousness and cruelty was absolutely appalling.
The biggest travesty is what was used as the intellectual framework for the ruling.
It seems to me we might ought to consider what the Lebanese are doing...
So, what part of the Constitution did the magicians on the High Court conjure up, in their mystical interpretation, as to the reasoning behind their opinion?
Has our Constitution been twisted once more to provide our activist Black Robes with an answer that makes them feel warm all over?
State of Missouri v. Christopher Simmons
944 S.W.2d 165 (Mo. banc 1997)
Christopher SimmonsCase Facts: In early September 1993, Simmons then 17, discussed with his friends, Charlie Benjamin (age 15) and John Tessmer (age 16), the possibility of committing a burglary and murdering someone. On several occasions, Simmons described the manner in which he planned to commit the crime: he would find someone to burglarize, tie the victim up, and ultimately push the victim off a bridge. Simmons assured his friends that their status as juveniles would allow them to "get away with it." Simmons apparently believed that a "voodoo man" who lived in a nearby trailer park would be the best victim. Rumor had it that the voodoo man owned hotels and motels and had lots of money despite his residence in a mobile home park.
On September 8, 1993, Simmons arranged to meet Benjamin and Tessmer at around 2:00 a.m. the following morning for the purpose of carrying out the plan. The boys met at the home of Brian Moomey, a 29-year old convicted felon who allowed neighbor teens to "hang out" at his home. Tessmer met Simmons and Benjamin, but refused to go with them and returned to his own home. Simmons and Benjamin left Moomeys and went to Shirley Crooks house to commit a burglary.
The two found a back window cracked open at the rear of Crooks home. They opened the window, reached through, unlocked the back door, and entered the house. Moving through the house, Simmons turned on a hallway light. The light awakened Mrs. Crook, who was home alone. She sat up in bed and asked, "Whos there?" Simmons entered her bedroom and recognized Mrs. Crook as a woman with whom he had previously had an automobile accident. Mrs. Crook apparently recognized him as well.
Simmons ordered Mrs. Crook out of her bed and on to the floor with Benjamins help. While Benjamin guarded Mrs. Crook in the bedroom, Simmons found a roll of duct tape, returned to the bedroom and bound her hands behind her back. They also taped her eyes and mouth shut. They walked Mrs. Crook from her home and placed her in the back of her mini-van. Simmons drove the can from Mrs. Crooks home in Jefferson County to Castlewood State Park in St. Louis County.
At the park, Simmons drove the van to a railroad trestle that spanned the Meramec River. Simmons parked the van near the railroad trestle. He and Benjamin began to unload Mrs. Crook from the van and discovered that she had freed her hands and had removed some of the duct tape from her face. Using her purse strap, the belt from her bathrobe, a towel from the back of the van, and some electrical wire found on the trestle, Simmons and Benjamin found Mrs. Crook, restraining her hands and feet and covering her head with the towel. Simmons and Benjamin walked Mrs. Crook to the railroad trestle. There, Simmons bound her hands and feet together, hog-tie fashion, with the electrical cable and covered Mrs. Crooks face completely with duct tape. Simmons then pushed her off the railroad trestle into the river below. At the time she fell, Mrs. Crook was alive and conscious. Simmons and Benjamin then Mrs. Crooks purse in to the woods and drove the van back to the mobile home park across from the subdivision in which she lived.
Her body was found later that afternoon by two fishermen. Simmons was arrested the next day, September 10, at his high school.
I am embarassed to think that the guy was going to be non-white. Maybe I am getting a bit too cynical
I once knew a guy who had a teenager draw down on him. My friend was carrying, but decided to risk it and let the kid live.
The point: My buddy and the Supremes might give a murderous, or potentially murderous, kid the benefit of the doubt, but I won't. If they are old enough to put my life at risk, they are old enough to take the consequences.
Impeach the 5 jackasses on the Supreme Court who voted with the majority in this case.
Yes, I agree.
Far be it from me to attempt to interpret God's work or His purpose on this, but I cannot help but think that a prayer of this sort would not be answered to the advantage of the murderer.
I like to think that God, in His ultimate wisdom, is simply giving the murderer more time on this earthly vail, in which to contemplate the horrible ravages of Hell, when he does get there.
SHEER INSANITY...black-robed lunatics
Of course the state can kill him.
How is he suppose to "attain a mature understanding of his own humanity" locked in a prison cell for life while being some convict's "toy"?
These are the words, and mindset, of someone completely disconnected from reality. They only go to show that Kennedy has been on the bench too long.
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