DAs Want To Show Pictures Of Homicide Victims When They Were Alive

(WREG-TV) A proposed bill would allow pictures of homicide victims when they were alive to be shown during trials.

A U.S. Supreme court ruling bars these types of photos from being used.

Marianne Purcell-Dunavant knows firsthand the horror of having a loved one murdered. In 2007, she found her fiance Chris Caris and 18-year-old Josh Cole shot execution style in a Nashville restaurant.

“I pulled up to a horrific crime scene,” Dunavant said through tears. “He had been brutally murdered. He died that night, and I died with him.”

Now, she and her husband, District Attorney General Michael Dunavant, are pushing a bill called the Victim Life Photo bill that would allow one photo of a victim to be shown during a homicide trial.

General Dunavant said he believes showing pictures of homicide victims when they were alive allows them the dignity and respect they deserve.

He pointed out living victims have a right to appear in court, looking their best, and victims who have died deserve the right, too.

“We want to honor the constitutional rights of that victim to be present, so to speak, and to be represented in court,” he said.

There are some defense attorneys who are against the bill.

They think it would make a case more emotional than factual for jurors.

However, others, like attorney Eric Mogy, said these types of photos are already used so often, he does not think the bill will make a big difference.

“I’ve done a few murder trials myself, and every time, the state has used a picture of the living victim, not just a picture at the time when he passed away.”

Still, the Dunavants believe it should be official, so people like Chris Caris are remembered for their lives, instead of their deaths.

“It’s a victory to show them that we have not forgotten about their life and that we remember their life,” Purcell-Dunavant said.

The bill is on the committee calendar in the House civil justice subcommittee for next Wednesday.

3 comments

  • RBB

    I don’t believe any pics should be shown. In the Trevor Martin trial, they showed pics of him in his younger years, and not the ones that had been taken not long before he died. The pic they showed was taken when he was much younger and before he was in high school. At the time he was shot, however. he was wearing “gang colors” and had that “sag and bag” because he was in a gang….If they are going to show pics of a victim and/or the defendant, they should be recent pics showing how they looked at the time of the crime

  • Linda Dodd

    I agree 100%, photos of the victims when they were alive should be shown in court. It shows that they had lives before it was taken away.

  • Mary Hiatt

    I am a social worker and see injustice everyday….this is unjust for victim’s family. Juries need to see, know and understand who the victim was, what he/she meant to their loved ones and their community, and what was lost….seeing autopsy photos or crime scene photos does none of this.

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