Tennessee Lawmakers Propose Constitutional Amendment to Support Victims of Crime

For Immediate Release                                                              

February 18, 2020


Media Contact

Mary Scott DeVault

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Tennessee Lawmakers Propose Constitutional Amendment to Support Victims of Crime


Nashville, Tenn. - State Senator John Stevens of Huntingdon and State Representative Patsy Hazlewood of Signal Mountain have introduced legislation that would strengthen the rights of crime victims in Tennessee’s state constitution. Senate Joint Resolution 885 and House Joint Resolution 822, known as Marsy’s Law, will ensure that victims of crime have equal, constitutional rights on the same level as those accused and convicted of crimes.

“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,” said Senator Stevens. “Tennesseans have made it clear they want equal rights for crime victims and adopting Marsy’s Law in our state would guarantee they are protected.”

The non-partisan bill presented by Senator Stevens and Representative Hazlewood would update the current language to spell out clear, enforceable rights and protections for victims in our state’s most powerful legal document.  If passed in two consecutive legislative sessions and signed by the governor, the constitutional amendment guaranteeing these protections would be placed on the November 2022 ballot for voters to approve.

“We need to update Tennessee’s Constitution to give the victims of crime legal standing to assert their rights,” said Representative Hazlewood. “Victims need our support and deserve our protection. 

That’s why we are working together across the aisle to pass Marsy’s Law.”

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 refuse a request by the defendant, the defendant's attorney, or any other person acting on behalf of the defendant for an interview, deposition, discovery request, or other communication with the victim;
  • 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.


Joan Berry has spent more than a decade fighting for the rights of crime victims after her daughter, Johnia, 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.

“In the decades since Johnia was stolen from my family, we’ve dedicated our lives to making sure victims have the same rights as the accused. That’s why I’m supporting Marsy’s Law for Tennessee, and that’s why I strongly encourage our lawmakers to pass this important legislation,” Berry said. “We need to do whatever we can to make sure the legal system doesn't add any more pain to victims and their families.”


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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