Victim Life Photo Bill huge win for victims' rights - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Victim Life Photo Bill huge win for victims' rights

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Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed the Victim Life Photo Bill on Wednesday, allowing a living photo of a murder victim to be shown to a jury. It's something that judges often wouldn't allow before because it could be considered prejudicial.

Attorneys on both sides say this new law doesn't mean we're about to see more guilty verdicts come out of murder trials. But advocates say that this is a huge win for victims' rights.

"We're not going to be able to go into great extent like what their upbringing was like, how well they did in high school, college, or things of that nature," said District Attorney General Neal Pinkston.

But for the families of murder victims, seeing one smiling picture of their loved one means a lot during trial.

"I don't think that will sway a jury one way or the other, just one photograph," said Pinkston, adding that juries are instructed to consider the facts of a case -- not sympathy.

Typically, a jury only sees gruesome crime scene and autopsy photos.

For Chattanooga mom, Carol Daugherty, sitting through the trial of her daughter's killer was especially tough. Her daughter, Carrie, was beaten to death in 2008.

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

"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."

Defense attorney Jerry summers doesn't expect other defense lawyers to change their trials strategies too much due to the new law.

"From a strictly legal standpoint, I don't think it's that big of change," Summers said. "I'm more concerned with keeping the gross pictures of the body out than I am the pictures of a victim prior to their death."

However, Summers said the new law might help build a defense if unflattering photos of a victim exist -- showing certain actions or lifestyles that could've contributed to their death.

READ MORE | Murder victims in Tennessee now have voice in court

"That actually might allow you to get something in that would help you, if you're dealing with the character of the victim," he said.

Prosecutors will decide case-by-case whether or not to use a picture of a victim during trial. The new law takes effect on July 1.

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