NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Four victims’ rights groups are asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to rule against a coalition of news media organizations, including The Associated Press, that is fighting to get access to some of the records in a high-profile rape case involving four former Vanderbilt University football players.
The Tennessean reports (http://tnne.ws/1JM40ZY ) that the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the Tennessean Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, the National Crime Victim Law Institute and the Sexual Assault Centers are asking the court to consider the victims before releasing police records to the media.
Cellphone video recorded graphic images of the June 2013 rape. The media are not seeking the graphic footage. Nor do they want to identify the victim.
The media organizations are seeking access to text messages, including those between coaches and players after the rape.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee legislature has passed a bill that would allow jurors to see photographs of murder victims when they were still alive.
Prosecutors and victims’ rights advocates hailed the passage of the legislation as a return to portraying the dead as more than just a corpse. It comes during National Crimes Victims’ Rights Week.
Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich announced Tuesday’s passage of the legislation in a press release.
She said that for years it was common for prosecutors to show jurors photographs of how victims appeared before a murder, but judges have been banning the practice out of concern that it would lead to some convictions to be overturned.
Weirich said the in-life photographs allow the victims to be seen as more than a piece of evidence.
— Note: It’s HB1342, sponsored by Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, and Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma.
A recent U.S. Department of Justice report says that youths in Tennessee juvenile correction facilities are at greater risk of being sexually victimized than the national average, reports the Tennessean. The report estimates that 9.5 percent of youths in state and private correctional facilities across the nation, or just more than 1,700 youths, were sexually victimized in 2011-12. The rate for Tennessee facilities was 13 percent.
The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics compiled the numbers through surveys of 326 facilities across the country. Nearly 8,700 youths responded to the sexual victimization part of the survey.
The report defines sexual victimization as forced sexual activity between youths and all sexual activity involving youths and staff.
Of the four Tennessee facilities surveyed, John S. Wilder Youth Development Center in Somerville had the highest rate of estimated sexual victimization, at 19.5 percent, up from 16.3 percent in 2010, when the bureau published a similar study. Three years ago, the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center had one of the highest rates in the county, at 26 percent.
A proposed change in state law on prosecution of rape cases has been made part of the package of legislation proposed to the Shelby County legislative delegation, according to the Commercial Appeal. Rape carries a statute of limitations of 10 years and aggravated rape has a 15-year statute of limitations. So, even if a rapist is caught and DNA evidence links him to the crime, if the (time set out in the) statute has passed, the rapist can’t be charged.
“I thought, this is so messed up. I don’t know what I can do, but I plan to something about this,” Ybos said.
This fall Ybos became a member of the Victims of Crime Advisory League (VOCAL), a group created in 2009 to help shape public policy to victims of crime. And she wrote a law.
That law extends the statute of limitations by one year from the date that the DNA evidence identifying the defendant is established.
A similar law was proposed in 2006 for all felonies but died because it was too expensive to implement, Ybos said.
Her law, however, would only apply to rape, aggravated rape and the rape of a child.
With VOCAL’s help, that law has been included in the joint legislative package Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton presented to the county’s state legislative delegation for consideration.
“Rape is a devastating crime,” said Ybos, a law school graduate who is studying for the bar exam. “If we have the evidence to solve it, we owe it to the victims to do everything we can to solve that crime.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and first lady Crissy Haslam are hosting the 10th annual “Tennessee Season to Remember,” commemorating victims who lost their lives to violent crime.
Friends and families of victims are invited to attend and hang ornaments in memory of their loved ones on memorial wreaths during the Thursday event. It takes place at 5:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church in downtown Nashville.
After the ceremony, the wreaths will be displayed at the Tennessee Tower.
Former first lady Andrea Conte is the guest speaker. She is a violent crime victim and is the founder and president of a nonprofit that advocates for crime victims.
Sen. Charlotte Burks of Monterey will also make remarks. Her husband, the late Sen. Tommy Burks, was murdered in 1998.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee will now provide translation services to non-English speaking crime victims during court proceedings.
The move comes after a federal mandate ordering states to provide free translation services to plaintiffs and defendants during court or risk losing federal aid. While considering how to go about providing services, the Tennessee Supreme Court asked for input and heard from a group that the federal government hasn’t mentioned: victims.
The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/L61Ntq) reports that after hearing from victims’ advocates and a Nashville prosecutor who talked about victims not understanding court proceedings, the justices opted to expand translation services. The change took effect July 1.
“It is important that not only those charged with a crime, but also crime victims, divorcing parents and all those who find themselves before the courts are able to communicate effectively,” Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Cornelia A. Clark said in a statement. “We are one of the first states to take this much-needed initiative that will benefit the many diverse people that interact with our courts.”
Nashville victims’ advocate Verna Wyatt said the move would improve the criminal justice system.
“I’m happy to see that victims of crime were included in that. For so many years, victims of crimes weren’t even thought of, much less a second thought,” she said. “I think it’s going to help the victims, I think it’s going to help the prosecutors.”
Until now, the state officials had paid only to translate for indigent defendants and witnesses while they testified at a cost of $25 to $50 an hour.
Nashville Assistant District Attorney General Rob McGuire said he thinks it is an important tool for victims to have.
“It’s daunting for someone who speaks English, who has maybe more of a cultural connection to the American criminal justice system,” McGuire said of most court proceedings. “But imagine if you didn’t have any of those things? Just the basic ‘What’s going on?’ question you’d have a hard time getting answered.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill that would require working carbon monoxide detectors in leased recreational vehicles has been named after five people who died from carbon monoxide poisoning last year at a bike rally in Clarksville.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts, of Clarksville, was advanced in a House subcommittee on Tuesday. Christine and Ed Watson, both of Clarksville, showed a picture of their daughter, Kathryn Over, and her husband, Jonathan, who were among the five killed last September during a Bikers Who Care event.
Christine Watson said the bill would prevent future tragedies by requiring a working carbon monoxide detector in RVs.
Police say the deaths were accidental after a generator was found near a vent for the trailer and all the windows and doors were shut.
By Sheila Burke
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A mother who won $1.5 million in court for the death of her only child says the March verdict brought her some closure, but she was too emotional a week later to testify to state lawmakers about why she thinks their idea of limiting jury awards is wrong.
A widow worries that nursing homes will have even less reason to make sure that patients like her husband are fed enough and don’t develop bed sores big enough to kill them.
And a businessman is fearful that all it takes is one out-of-control jury to bankrupt him.
State court records show that very few lawsuits in Tennessee ever go to a jury and fewer yet end up with awards higher than the caps Gov. Bill Haslam is close to winning in the General Assembly. Last year there were 14 such trials in the state. Some people who did win awards say they didn’t want the money as much as they wanted a weapon to stop actions like the ones that killed their loved ones.
(Note: The bill, HB2008, cleared House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.)
For LaFonda Bond, going to trial meant finding out how her 22-month-old son Ford could have choked on a piece of food at mealtime at a church-run preschool. She hopes the verdict will send a message to any business that cares for children.