Bills approved by both chambers Tuesday will increase the penalty for criminal assaults if the victim is either a firefighter, emergency worker or a health care professional.
The bills touched off considerable debate in the Senate as Republican Sens. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville and Brian Kelsey of Germantown questioned the wisdom of putting some victims on a higher level than others.
Campfield said the legislation violates the principle of “equal protection under the law” and questioned why a person assaulting a pregnant woman should face a lesser penalty than someone assaulting a doctor or fireman.
Proponents noted current law already makes the penalty higher when the victim is a law enforcement officer and said firefighters, emergency personel and doctors or nurses face greater risk of assault than others.
Both bills now go to the governor. The bill on health care provider assaults (HB306) passed 31-1 in the Senate and 63-31 in the House. The bill on firefighters and emergency workers (SB66) was approved 24-2 in the Senate; 93-3 in the House.
Under Tennessee law, a victim of statutory rape can be considered an accomplice in the crime against her, reports the Tennessean. That could change soon. The state Supreme Court has agreed to take on a case involving a 14-year-old girl from Arkansas and a Memphis man, which could lead it to dust off and possibly overturn the arcane interpretation of the law. The rule, which has gone unchallenged for more than a century, emerged from an 1895 incest case in which a Tennessee court found no “evidence of force” in a case involving an uncle having sex with his niece.
The high court recently agreed to hear the case of Dewayne Collier, whom a Shelby County jury convicted in 2010 of aggravated statutory rape. Collier, through his attorneys, has maintained his innocence from the outset.
The court ruled, however, that both could be convicted of incest. To have such an interpretation on the books in the 21st century is an outrage, some observers say.
“We cannot expect victims to feel safe enough to break free and seek relief when they face the prospect of being victimized again by our legal system,” said Cathy Gurley, executive director of You Have the Power, a victims’ rights organization.
The rule, she said, “undermines society’s obligation to protect children.”
In its final appeal stage, the high court expressed keen interest in the thorny questions raised by Collier’s case: Can the victim of a sexual offense be a criminal accomplice? If so, do prosecutors need supporting evidence beyond an accomplice’s testimony to convict a defendant?
Both questions, according to legal experts, have far-reaching implications for how sex crimes are prosecuted in Tennessee.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder solemnly announce the body of Private First Class Glenn Schoenmann will finally be laid to rest after 62 years.
Schoenmann was assigned to Company M, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division in the United States Army when he was involved in the infamous Battle of Chosin Reservoir in North Korea on November 28, 1950. The Grundy County native reportedly died as a Prisoner of War on December 29, 1950. Family members say Schoenmann’s remains were recovered in 2004, but the identification process was finalized in December, 2012.
Schoenmann was born in Palmer, Tennessee, but grew up in Tracy City where he attended James Shook School and worked on the Werner Farm with his family. Schoenmann was 20-years old when he was killed.
“The Schoenmann family has waited 62 years to give Glenn a proper burial, and we join them in remembering his service and sacrifice,” Haslam said. “As a state we mourn the loss of PFC Schoenmann, but we are grateful for his return to his home and family.”
“PFC Schoenmann’s courage and bravery to serve his country will be recognized and remembered by his fellow Tennesseans,” Grinder said. “The closure for the Schoenmann family is continued proof we should never give up until all of our missing in action and prisoner of war service members have been brought home.”
The body of PFC Schoenmann will arrive at the Nashville International Airport at 12:45 p.m. (CST) on Thursday, January 10, 2013. Visitation will be Friday, January 11 from 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. (CST) at Layne Funeral Home in Palmer. Visitation will resume at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday January 12 at Grundy County High School in Coalmont. Funeral services will be at 1:00 p.m. at Grundy County High School with the burial to follow at the Brown’s Chapel Cemetery in Palmer. In case of inclement weather, all services will be held at Layne Funeral Home in Palmer.
Schoenmann is survived by his sister Edna Kilgore of Monteagle, Tennessee, brothers Ernest Schoenmann of Creave Coure, Illinois, Raymond Schoenmann of Tracy City, Tennessee and Carl Schoenmann of Winchester, Tennessee.
“It just means a lot that he will be buried in the same cemetery with our mother, father and grandparents,” Raymond Schoenmann said. “It’s finally uniting the family back together.”
Gov. Bill Haslam comments on Mitt Romney’s famous ’47 percent’ remarks, as reported by TNReport. “I think he made a statement about, ‘Hey, it might be hard to win some folks’ votes,'” Haslam told reporters after a groundbreaking ceremony in Nashville Wednesday.
“I think our response in government obviously is to care about everyone. I’ll say this: There’s videos of a lot of candidates. You had President Obama say when he was running, ‘There’s just people who just cling to guns and God,’ and I think he’d go back and say, ‘That’s not quite what I meant by that.'”
Haslam added that the comments were likely part of the Romney team’s “political calculus” in terms of where he has the best chance to win votes.