Those who murder or attempt to murder law enforcement or first responders may be sentenced to death or life without parole, respectively. The Tennessee House will vote on two bills outlining these proposed sentencing changes next Thursday. Specifically, these bills would apply to police, correctional officers, department of correction employees, probation and parole officers, emergency medical or rescue workers, EMTs, paramedics, and firefighters.
HB0511 handles murder charges, whereas HB0512 handles attempted murder charges. The former bill would give the jury two options for those who murder law enforcement or first responders: death, or life without parole. The latter bill would add onto the current sentencing options for attempted murder to allow life without parole as a punishment. It would also prohibit relief eligibility for those who received life without parole for aggravated rape, murder, or attempted murder of a child. Current law only limits relief eligibility for aggravated raped or murder of a child – this proposal would expand that to attempted murder.
State Representative Ron Gant (R-Rossville) introduced both bills.
HB0511 passed out of both subcommittee and committee rather quickly – only State Representatives London Lamar (D-Memphis) and Jerry Sexton (Bean Station) requested to record their votes as “no.”
Likewise, HB0512 passed out of committee with ease. The “no” votes were recorded as State Representatives Bill Beck (D-Nashville), Vincent Dixie (D-Nashville), and Lamar.
Gant has sponsored another bill with sentencing reform objectives. He introduced “anti-riot” legislation that would heighten charges for obstructing highways to a felony, and create punishments for rioters who throw objects, harass, or intimidate others. As The Tennessee Star reported, it would also provide immunity for drivers who unintentionally hit protestors blocking roadways illegally.
If passed by the House next Thursday, both bills will await consideration in the Senate. The companion bills, both sponsored by State Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), were referred to committee last month and haven’t been taken up yet.
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