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Jewish World Review Dec. 21, 1999 /12 Teves, 5760

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'Cammi's law' makes witnesses accountable -- In 1997 this country was outraged at the brutal torture, rape, strangulation and ultimate murder of a 7-year-old girl in a Nevada casino bathroom. This unbelievably cruel and evil act, perpetrated by confessed murderer Jeremy Strohmeyer, was witnessed by his friend, his buddy and his pal -- who did and said nothing to stop Jeremy. Jeremy is in jail for life with no possibility of parole, and his friend, pal and buddy is carrying on with his life.

The decent folks of Nevada went absolutely bonkers when it was reported that there were no statutes to prosecute the witness who evilly stood by and did nothing. Failed attempts were made to kick him out of the university he subsequently attended.

It's happened again. Ed and Kathy Ostwald of Clinton Township, Mich., wrote to me about the horrific murder of their 16-year-old daughter, Cammi, on Oct. 30, 1997. According to the Ostwalds' letter, Randy Kobici testified that he had invited Cammi and others to his home for a party, and that he later heard Cammi and Jason Cummins arguing. Jason Cummins, convicted of murder and serving 50 to 75 years, was observed by his "friend" Kobici "... beating Cammi with a baseball bat. She was lying on her back and she was knocked silly ... He told me not to call the cops ... I didn't know what to do ... I went outside and he was still stomping on her."

Kobici also stated, according to the Ostwalds' account of the trial testimony, that Kobici saw Cummins drag Cammi's body to a fence and try to throw it over. He then said he "saw flames down the hill and I saw Jason running with the gas can." Kobici allowed Cummins to shower in his home and gave him a change of clothing. Kobici was not charged with any crime. However, a few months after Cammi's death, Kobici was charged with beating his aunt to death with a hammer. (Birds of a feather.)

"Cammi's Law," Michigan House Bill 5052 and Senate Bill 825, has been introduced into the Michigan Legislature. If passed, the law would make it a felony for an adult to witness a harmful act upon a minor without summoning help. This law would impose a penalty of up to five years in prison on bystanders who fail to report a criminal act, such as murder, rape or sexual abuse, against children under 12 years old.

I am totally in favor of this legislation. My friend and esteemed ethics scholar from Syracuse University, Dr. Laurence Thomas, expressed my sentiments when he wrote: "I find myself pained by the thought that a society that needs Cammi's Law is one that may have already lost its will to live morally. For, in the end, the laws of a society are only as good as the hearts of the people who live in that society. Only an objective conception of morality can, at once, both rein in our utterly self-interested impulses and render us inescapably responsive to the humanity of another."

More than 88 percent of the people who responded to the ethical question of the week on my radio broadcast, "Should Cammi's Law be passed?" agreed -- with sadness that this was even a question. Sherry, from Missouri, wrote: "Today we need a law to force someone to do the right thing." Denise from California lamented: "Today it seems many adults will stand by and watch an injustice with an 'it's not my problem' attitude. It's sad to me that our society is breaking down into individuals who are just looking out for themselves."

Among the 12 percent who were in disagreement with this proposed legislation, Karl from Louisiana wrote, "The proposed legislation is another well-intentioned brick in the road to a prosecutorial state." Molly from Indiana wrote, "All too often lately in our country, we wish for easy legislative answers to complex human morality problems." "One cannot be forced into law enforcement service. The Founders were particularly concerned about citizens being forced into government service," said William from Nevada. Finally, Michael from New York worried about "the definition of a crime. We know that right now it is murdering a little girl in the bathroom, but what will it be tomorrow?"

With all the reasonable concerns about the "bystander's" safety, the parameters of the legislation and the nature of crime, I still believe that this legislation is necessary. Every day on my program I hear from regular folks who are cowed by the annoying, disruptive, destructive, immoral, amoral and evil actions of others because of a new social commandment, "Thou shalt not judge." For example, the statistics that show children at greater risk for being molested, beaten and murdered while living with an unrelated male (current stud, shack-up) don't seem to impress those who sanction these arrangements as benign alternative lifestyles.

Let's get Cammi's Law passed in all 50 states to protect our innocent children. To get involved, the Ostwald family invites you to e-mail them by clicking here.

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