KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A bill to allow a murder victim’s photo to be shown in court during the trial has moved forward in the state legislature. The bill will be before the full Criminal Justice Committee for approval next week.
The founder of nonprofit group Hope for Victims, Joan Berry, has been lobbying for this bill to pass and was pleased to see the bill get approval from the State House Criminal Justice subcommittee.
“They have no voice they have no face so this is just another step in the right direction to give victims more rights,” said Berry.Previous story:Victim Photo Life Bill approved in Tenn. House subcommittee
Her daughter Johnia Berry was murdered in 2004 and since then, she’s been dedicated to fighting for victims’ rights. She works tirelessly with other victims’ families to try and change legislation.
“It’s not fair to the victim not to have their photograph shown. It’s not fair. I think they should have the same right as the defendant does,” Berry said.
This bill would allow a photo of the victim to be admissible evidence in a trial to show the general appearance and condition of the victim while alive. Some attorneys and lawmakers in opposition of the bill have expressed concern in the past over the photo being prejudicial and inflaming the jury’s emotion.
Berry disagrees with that opinion.
“I do not think it’s prejudice,” she said. “If they had survived and did not die during their attack, they would have been able to be there.”
State Rep. Ryan Haynes, co-sponsor of the bill, believes it will pass next week.
“I don’t see any reason why an individual should not be able to have a photo of the victim introduced into evidence. That doesn’t seem to me to be a problem at all,” said Rep. Haynes.
The bill will be up for vote in front of the full committee, and Berry says she will be there with a photo of her daughter in hand.
“I think this is a very important bill. Our victims deserve this,” said Berry.
Currently, it’s up to a judge to decide on whether a photo of the victim should be allowed in as evidence.
The bill would allow a victim’s photo in court as long as the judge finds the photo to be an accurate depiction of the victim while they were alive.