Tennessee Crime Victims Say Passing Marsy's Law is Essential This Year

May 21, 2020 – Tennessee victims, organizations and advocates dedicated to protecting the rights of crime victims and their families have come together to endorse Marsy’s Law for Tennessee -- a law that will strengthen the rights of crime victims in Tennessee’s state constitution.

As the legislature decides what bills will be voted on before they adjourn the session for the year, crime victims want lawmakers to know the rights of victims cannot wait.

Joan Berry is a long time victims’ rights advocate and mother of Johnia Berry, who was murdered in West Knoxville in 2004. She founded the group “HOPE for Victims” to give a voice to family members who have lost loved ones to crime.

“We can’t wait another six years to have enforceable rights and that’s how long it will take to get this on the ballot if the legislature adjourns without taking up Marsy’s Law,” said Berry. “Crime victims are so often forgotten and left to feel invisible. We believe our rights are essential and must be protected - this year.” 

If passed in two consecutive general assemblies, the constitutional amendment guaranteeing these protections would be placed on the November 2022 ballot for voters to approve.

Victim Advocates of Marsy’s Law for Tennessee include:

Tina Fox, the 2018 National Crime Victims’ Rights Service Award Recipient and Assistant Director of Programs at Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence, Nashville

Hope for Victims, Knoxville/ Tri-Cities

Joan Berry, founder of Hope for Victims and mother of Johnia Berry, murdered in 2004, Knoxville

Tina Gregg, mother of Brooke Morris, murdered in 2011, Knoxville

Katrina Douglas, Survivor & Advocate, Covington

LaVerne Craig, daughter of Dollie Gouge, murdered in 1987, Knoxville

Debbie Locke, wife of Mike Locke, murdered in 2015, Kingsport

Fayette Cares, Somerville

Alexandra Porto, Executive Director of Fayette Cares

Amanda’s Way, Domestic Violence Services, Covington

Tiare Stone, Executive Director of Amanda’s Way

Tonia Walton, Mother of Raymond ‘Cody’ Walton, murdered in 2019

The Family of Amanda Wallace Chapman, murdered in 2003

-Audrey Sibley

-Karen Hathaway

-Andrea Hopkins

-Frankie Weakley

Tina Cole, Mother of Josh Cole, murdered in 2007, Nashville

Philip McLendon, Owner of Absolute Moving Services in Shelby County, Moves Domestic Violence Victims at no charge.

 “We are honored to have the support and endorsement of this amazing group of advocates,” said Marianne Dunavant, Victim Outreach Director for Marsy’s Law for Tennessee. “They work hard every day to protect the rights of victims and need our legislators help to make sure the rights in our state’s constitution are enforceable, which they currently are not.”

More than twenty years ago, 89 percent of Tennesseans voted to give crime victims the rights they deserve by adopting a Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights. But unfortunately, victims find these rights to be unenforceable under current law and the rights of victims are not always protected.

Marsy’s Law for Tennessee would strengthen the rights of crime victims in Tennessee’s state constitution. Senate Joint Resolution 885 and House Joint Resolution 822 will ensure that victims of crime have equal, constitutional rights on the same level as those accused and convicted of crimes.




More About Marsy’s Law for Tennessee:

State Senator John Stevens of Huntingdon and State Representative Patsy Hazlewood of Signal Mountain are sponsoring the bill, with Lt. Governor Randy McNally and Speaker Cameron Sexton as prime co-sponsors. The resolutions have broad, bipartisan support that includes co-sponsors Sen. Janice Bowling, Rep. William Lamberth, Rep. Jeremy Faison, Rep. Gary Hicks, Rep. John Mark Windle, Rep. Curtis Johnson, Rep. Harold Love, Rep. Ron Gant, Rep. Andrew Farmer, Rep. Brandon Ogles, Rep. Bruce Griffey, and Rep. Mike Carter.

Adopting Marsy’s Law in Tennessee will provide victims with the ability to assert the critical rights to which they are promised including:

  • The right to be treated with fairness for the victim's safety, dignity, and privacy;
  • The right, upon request, to reasonable and timely notice of, and to be present at, all criminal public proceedings and all juvenile delinquency proceedings involving the accused;
  • The right to be heard in any proceeding involving release, plea, sentencing, disposition, and parole, as well as any public proceeding during which a right of the victim is implicated;
  • The right to be free from harassment, intimidation, and abuse throughout the criminal justice system, including reasonable protection from the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused;
  • The right, upon request, to reasonable notice of any release or escape of an accused;
  • The right to full and timely restitution from the offender;
  • The right to a speedy trial or disposition and a prompt and final conclusion of the case after the conviction or sentence;
  • The right, upon request, to confer with the prosecution;
  • The right to be fully informed of all rights afforded to crime victims.

For more information, visit marsyslawfortn.com.

About Marsy’s Law

Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they were confronted by the accused murderer. The family, who had just come from a visit to Marsy’s grave, was unaware that the accused had been released on bail.

In an effort to honor his sister, Dr. Nicholas has made it his mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights. He formed Marsy’s Law for All in 2009, providing expertise and resources to victims’ rights organizations nationwide.

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