MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Tennessee General Assembly passed a law that allows prosecutors show pictures of homicide victims to juries during murder trials.
Recent rulings by appeal courts banned the practice even though it was a common practice for years.
The courts said it was to prevent verdicts from being overturned on appeal.
As a result, only pictures of the person’s body or what remained was allowed in the courtroom.
“The passage of this Victim Life Photo Bill returns some measure of fairness by affording murder victims the right to be present in the courtroom, not as a corpse or piece of evidence, but as a person as shown in an appropriate photograph,” said Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich, a strong proponent of the bill. “Since homicide victims cannot speak for themselves in court, they should at the very least be seen in court. They certainly deserve the same rights in court as victims of other crimes.”
The decision came during Victim’s Right Week.
Voters approved the Victim’s Bill of Rights back in 1998 which guaranteed a victim had the right to be present during critical portions of the criminal justice process.
“The process of ensuring victim rights will continue,” said Guy Jones, deputy director of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference, which coordinated a two-year effort to get the legislature to set the newly passed policy. “The statute that was passed today is based on a statute in Oklahoma that has been reviewed and upheld in the courts. We look forward to the good it will do here in Tennessee.”