Senate approves victims' rights bills spurred by Christians and Newsoms

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – The Tennessee State Senate voted unanimously Thursday to approve two bills that aim to help crime victims and their families from being further victimized by an unjust court process.

The bills, which are sponsored by Senators Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville), Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) and Ken Yager (R-Harriman) and Representative Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville), come after the families of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom had to endure seven years of trials before the final guilty verdicts were delivered.

Christian and Newsom were carjacked, brutally raped, tortured and murdered in 2007. The five defendants were tried in a court of law and found guilty by the jury of the brutal crimes five years later.

However, because presiding judge Richard Baumgartner being found guilty of illegally taking narcotics during the trial, a special judge ordered retrials for the defendants.

Senate Bill 1796 creates a presumption applicable to a successor judge that the presiding judge, who serves as the 13th juror, is presumed to have completed his duties once he or she accepts the verdict of the jury.

Senate Bill 1797 puts new restrictions on bringing into evidence presumptions or false information that are related to the victim that is totally unrelated to the crime. This measure would put Tennessee law into agreement with the constitutional amendment passed by Tennesseans in 1998 which states crime victims should be free from intimidation, harassment or abuse throughout the criminal justice system.

The bills must now be approved in the House of Representatives and signed by the governor before becoming law.

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