Tennessee Lawmakers Propose Constitutional Amendment to Support Victims of Crime


State Sen. John Stevens (R-Huntingdon) and State Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, (R-Signal Mountain) have introduced legislation that they say would strengthen the rights of crime victims in Tennessee’s Constitution.

According to a press release, this resolution will ensure that victims of crime have equal, constitutional rights on the same level as those accused and convicted of crimes, according to a press release.

These resolutions, Senate Joint Resolution 885 and House Joint Resolution 822, are also known as Marsy’s Law, the press release went on to say.

“More than 20 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,” Stevens said.

“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 bill presented 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 get placed on the November 2022 ballot for voters to approve, the press release said.

“We need to update Tennessee’s Constitution to give the victims of crime legal standing to assert their rights,” Hazlewood said.

“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, according to the press release, 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.

According to a press release, 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,” the press release said.

“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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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]





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5 Thoughts to “Tennessee Lawmakers Propose Constitutional Amendment to Support Victims of Crime”

  1. FMB

    Will this include victims who are injured or die as a result of the intentional and reckless actions, intimidation, neglect, and abuse by a physician, nurse or other healthcare employees in primary care, and outpatient clinics?
    Victims of health care abuse is not limited to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, there are many of us who are victims of abuse, neglect, ridicule, intimidation, withholding of care and tests and even the deliberate prescribing of medication that are incorrect strength/dose!!!
    Citizens/patients seeking primary care are victims of harm that, in some cases, are criminal in nature and justice is still not possible!
    Patients in primary care and specialty settings are often overlooked and unable to obtain justice when they are injured or victimized by physicians and need the protection of law and access to justice!!
    Thanks to Tennessee law makers, and the act/rules of law such as the “Tennessee Health Care Liability Act” (THCLA) the abusers are protected!!

    In Tennessee (1 of only 5 states), the victim has just one year to bring a claim against the health care professional and/or facility or they lose their right to recover damages for the injury they sustained. That is not a sufficient amount of time for a victim who is traumatized by the psychological and emotional abuse of the physician whose intentional withholding of tests led to the death of a loved one and is more likely then not, proceeding pro se because they were unable to obtain legal council.
    Victims over the age of 50 will more likely then not end up pursuing their claim(s) pro-se because the costs incurred by legal firms are often to high compared to what they would likely recover in damages for the Victim(s), and refuse the case, encouraging the victim to continue to seek council. All the while the clock is ticking down and sometimes runs out before the victim has even learned that the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (THCLA) even exists and has rules they need to follow in order to file their claim!!

    Many Victims with claim(s) that has merit are still lost due to not having the legal knowledge regarding the laws much less the requirements for filing a healthcare liability claim/lawsuit.
    I learned this while seeking answers and accountability from Regional One Health after the reckless and intentional actions, abuse and neglect by John M. Norwood M.D. led to the death of my husband and intentional and deliberate actions causing injury to me.

    While “proposing” amendments to the States Constitution to support victims of crime may be a good start, it is a start in the wrong direction and will do nothing to support any victim of crime until the laws that block the rights of all people, within those Constitutions and Human Rights, are changed and made to support those rights!

    As Martin Luther King Jr. Once said “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.”

    1. William R. Delzell

      Excellent rebuttal, FMB!

  2. William Delzell

    I can see it now: Patsy Hazlewood and John Stevens getting accused or charged with stalking and the authorities applying their proposed victims’ rights laws to these two. I’d bet they’d yell bloody murder if they had to eat their own words.

    We already have victims’ rights laws if they were simply enforced that can give victims their protection. I have some questions:

    Under this proposal, would victims of corporate crime have the same rights as victims of physically violent or sex crime? The people of Kingston, TN, who had to evacuate their homes in 2008 due to gross negligence by strip mining companies should consider themselves as crime victims and have the same protections as a stalking victim.

    Would victims who did not have an unblemished record have the same rights as a completely innocent child victim against their assailants. For example, would a victim of prison rape get these victims’s rights protections? Would somebody with a prior record who survives a drive-by shooting have the same protections?

    What about victims who merely want a certain degree of punishment for their assailants but who want to temper that punishment with compassion? Would they get the same protection as a victim who wanted MAXIMUM retribution against his or her assailant?

    I am torn about this proposed law for the above reasons. If I were a crime victim, I would want the same protections and respects that other victims want. But in the back of my mind, I feel that these two sponsors of this law have ALTERIOR motives for ramming this bill through that have absolutely nothing to do with protecting victims’ rights. Rather, they are using this bill simply to incite mob violence against those who are politically vulnerable to popular prejudice and to trick crime victims into destroying their own rights in the name of public safety. Indeed, many politicians who support these so-called victims’ rights are really to cover up their own wrong-doings or the wrong-doings of others who contribute lavishly to their election campaigns.

    My gut tells me this bill is a clunker. Buyer, beware!

  3. Kevin

    You mean to tell me that with all of the volume of legislation currently held within the TCA registers, these nuances can’t find a better home nestled within one of those literary masterpieces? Or is this perhaps just a political stunt by two political hacks in need of an infusion of political capital back in their districts?

    I don’t have a problem with the concept of codifying any of the proposed victim rights. I do have an issue with using the Constitution as the storage bin for every piece of “feel good” government rhetoric. The Constitution should be a succinct, easy to read, affirmation of the protection for our most precious rights.

    In light of the fact that 60+% of our kids don’t read at grade level, this concept will be more important than ever in the coming years!

  4. William R. Delzell

    I thought we already passed several of such laws. The victims’ rights movement started out as a progressive movement over fifty years ago in California until the Hard Right’s extremists like Howard Jarvis and Company hijacked this agenda to twist it into something else. The REAL motives by right wing lawmakers to pass these laws is not to protect ALL crime victims, but only a puny percentage of victims who fit the right wing stereotype of what a crime-victim should be: preferably rich, white, female, reactionary, and with no prior criminal record themselves. These lawmakers also want to be sure the victims whom they choose to represent will be only those who advocate the harshest retribution possible against their assailants. No room for compassionate victims like Martin Luther King, Jr.! That means that a victim who wants to temper punishment with compassion will be out of luck under these proposed victims’ rights laws. This law would have dissed my parents who temper punishment with compassion. A former drug dealer who gets assaulted will not get much if any help from this law. A victim of PRISON rape cannot expect much help either even though the SUPPOSED purpose of these victims’ rights laws were meant to aid rape victims. I guess it’s only CERTAIN types of rape victims that this proposed law cares anything about. Innocent victims of police and Klan brutality such as the children in Birmingham’s 1963 church bombing cannot expect any compassion either from these so-called victims’ rights advocates. And finally, what about victims of CORPORATE CRIME, as opposed to the run-of-the-mill violent street crime? Will the victims of Enron and Goldman Sachs scams get any relief from the Hazlewood/Stevens bill? How about the low-income homeowners in Detroit who got scammed out of their homes when the state of Michigan overtaxed their homes at well beyond their market value while under-taxing nearby wealthier homes? How about the victims of pharmaceutical fraud that results in illness for a family member or the scamming of their savings? How about the little children of Flint, Michigan, who had to make do with leaded water since the utility companies wanted to scam them?

    No, that’s why I don’t trust this bill as a TRUE victims’ rights initiative. Rather, it is merely a front for a vicious right-wing agenda to limit help only to whom these Tea Party Republicans view as “deserving” victims and not the rest of us “un-deserving” victims of both CORPORATE and violent crime! These two Republicans don’t want justice; they want to incite mob violence against those who cannot defend themselves!