Knoxville mothers honored with Champion of Victims’ Rights Award

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Two local mothers are being honored for their work with victims’ rights from the Marsy’s Law for Tennessee group.

The group presented Joan Berry and Tina Gregg of Knoxville with the Champion of Victims’ Rights Award. According to a statement from Marsy’s Law of Tennessee, the honor was presented “for their decades of hard work and dedication to protecting the rights of crime victims and their families in Tennessee.”

Marianne Dunavant, victim outreach coordinator for the agency, told WATE 6 On Your Side Wednesday evening the two mothers have been champions of victims’ rights across the state and said she appreciated their tireless work for the community.

Joan Berry is a long time victims’ rights advocate and mother of Johnia Berry, who was murdered in West Knoxville in 2004. She founded the group “HOPE for Victims” to give a voice to family members who have lost loved ones to crime. In 2007, Berry helped to implement the “Johnia Berry Act” that requires a DNA sample be submitted when a person is arrested for a violent felony in Tennessee. 

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“I’m grateful for this recognition and will continue to advocate for Marsy’s Law and for crime victims and their families,” Joan Berry said in a statement issued to WATE 6 On Your Side. “We must do all we can to ensure crime victims have equal rights and a voice in our legal system.” 

Gregg has also spent the last decade fighting for stronger protections for victims after her daughter, Brooke Morris, was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend and boss in 2011. Brooke’s mother, Tina, was retraumatized in the months before her daughter’s murderer was convicted. Tina was never notified by local officials when the man accused with her murder left the state. She found out that he was walking the streets from a friend on Facebook, creating fear and anxiety during an already difficult time in her life. 

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“The pain never goes away when you lose a child to crime, but we find comfort in honoring Brooke’s legacy by fighting to make sure the legal system doesn’t add any more pain to victims and their families,” Gregg also said in a statement. “I’m honored to advocate for Marsy’s Law in Tennessee and appreciate this award.” 

Berry and Gregg have endorsed Marsy’s Law for Tennessee (House Joint Resolution 44) — a law that will ensure that victims of crime have equal, constitutional rights as those accused and convicted of crimes.

That piece of legislation is continuing to make its way through the Tennessee General Assembly.

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You can learn more about Marsy’s Law for Tennessee HERE.

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