UPDATE: Murder victims in Tennessee now have a voice in court - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Murder victims in Tennessee now have a voice in court

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: Victims' rights advocates in Tennessee are victorious. A bill that gives murder victims a voice was signed into law by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

Previously, a murder victim's picture was shown in a trial only if the judge approved. Many judges didn't allow it because they say it influences the jury. For nearly two years, victims' advocates have been fighting to get this bill passed, including Chattanooga mom, Carol Daugherty.  Her daughter, Carrie, was murdered in 2008.




 Judges in Tennessee do not currently have to allow a living photo of a murder victim to be shown in court. But a new proposed law could change all that.

Most judges don't allow normal photos of murder victims at trial because higher courts have ruled the pictures can sway a jury.  

But families affected by homicides say it should be a basic victim right.

"Carrie was a person. And all they saw was her broken, bloody body," said Carol Daugherty, whose daughter, Carrie, was murdered in 2008.

"It was important to see what he did, but they should've seen who she was," Daugherty said.

Although Carrie's killer was convicted, a jury never saw the 24-year-old's face. That's why Carol, along with other victim rights advocates across the state, want lawmakers to change the current law.

The "Victim Life Photo Bill" would force judges to allow juries to see a picture of victims -- in a way that's more like their loved ones remember them.

"If (Carrie) had survived, she would've been in the courtroom every day facing the monster, and she would've been allowed to. That was her right," Daugherty said.

District Attorneys across the state are pushing for the bill to pass.

"Sadly, the only thing jurors really see of victims are those rather graphic crime scene photos and autopsy photos," said Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston.

Current rules already limit what lawyers can show at trial, and higher courts have ruled a victim's photo could make it hard for the jury to stay impartial. Critics of the bill say the same.

"It's not going to allow us to go into great detail of all their good deeds or all the good things that they've done, but it gives the jurors looking at the victim more than just the gruesome, grotesque way that they do now," Pinkston said.
Prosecutors argue the evidence decides the outcome of a case -- not just one smiling picture.

"I don't see why because she was murdered that she lost that right," Daugherty said of her daughter's lack of identity in court. "It doesn't seem fair."

The bill has already passed one House sub-committee, and the House Criminal Justice Committee will discuss and vote on whether to advance it on Wednesday morning.

For more information, including a list of lawmakers taking up the bill, click here.
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