NASHVILLE, TN — Two new laws sponsored by State Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) will take effect on July 1 as Tennessee’s new fiscal year begins. The July 1 enactments includes a new law which allows prosecutors to use pre-crime photographs of victims during their accused killers’ trials and legislation which repeals Tennessee’s Intractable Pain Treatment Act in an effort to reduce opioid abuse.
Under current law and rules of evidence, a pre-crime photograph of a victim can be admitted into evidence if it is relevant and not overly prejudicial. Some courts, however, do not allow such photographs for fear that they will be reversed based on those instructions. Bowling’s legislation provides that in a prosecution of any criminal homicide, an appropriate photograph of the victim while alive shall be admissible evidence when offered by the district attorney general.
“In many Tennessee courtrooms, victims are only presented in autopsy photos or those of the dark horrific crime scene,” said Senator Bowling. “Crime scene photos can dehumanize the victim and make it difficult for juries to view the victims as a unique human being protected by the law. These victims should be rightfully remembered for the person they were before their life was taken. This new law allows for the submission of an appropriate photograph by a loved one so the jury can see what the victim looked like before their life was taken away.”
Bowling said the legislation, which has been heralded by victim’s rights groups across the state, is modeled after an Oklahoma law.
Similarly, Bowling’s legislation addressing opioid abuse was supported by the state’s district attorneys and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The new law repeals Tennessee’s Intractable Pain Treatment Act which was passed in 2001. That law included a “Pain Patient’s Bill of Rights” which gave patients a great amount of responsibility to choose opiate medications as a first line of treatment even through other modalities of pain relief exist. Under the act’s “Patient Bill of Rights,” physicians were required either to provide requested opiate medication or refer to physicians who will.
“Since the passage of the 2001 law, Tennessee has experienced multiple negative consequences, including being ranked second in the nation for the rate of opioid pain relievers sold per 10,000 persons,” said Senator Bowling. “Prescription opioids rank as the worst abused drug among individuals receiving state-funded treatment services in Tennessee. In addition to reduction in crime, babies being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, judicial costs, and negative health issues, I hope and expect this legislation will have some very positive consequences in the workplace. Tennessee ranks very high in work days lost to sickness. A high percentage of those sick day absences are directly related to opioid use and addiction. Additionally, the tragedies of overdose deaths should be dramatically reduced. I look forward to the many positive benefits in the lives of Tennesseans.”