From Tom Humphrey’s Humphrey on Hill blog on the sexual assault victims bill:
After being narrowed from its original scope, legislation to keep some information about rape victims from the public advanced in both the House and Senate on Wednesday.
As introduced, the bill by Sen. Becky Massey of Knoxville and Rep. Mary Littleton of Dickson, would have made confidential all identifying information about the victim of a sexual assault from the outset of an investigation by law enforcement into the crime.
With amendments since then, the bill (HB2361) would apply only after a defendant had been found guilty either by trial or plea agreement and only keep confidential the name, address, phone number, social security number and any “any photographic or video depictions of the victim.”
The amended bill was approved 92-1 by the full House on Wednesday and, a few hours later, won unanimous approval in the Senate Judiciary Committee – its last hurdle before a floor vote.
Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, speaking for the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, told the Senate committee he believes the compromise legislation “strikes a balance” between the rights of the public and media to information and the rights of victims to protection.
“Our main concern was not about legitimate media,” Rausch said. “Our concern was with those who want to make a name for themselves or who get a joy out of continuing to victimize victims.”
Rausch praised Massey and Littleton for “bringing all the parties together.
Frank Gibson of the Tennessee Press Association said the 125 newspaper members of TPA all now have a policy of voluntarily not publishing the name or identifying information about the victims of sexual assault.
“From the press perspective, we didn’t think the bill was needed, period,” Gibson said.
But he said the amended version is an improvement. Earlier versions, he said, could have hampered media coverage of trials and other proceedings and perhaps have prevented anyone from even known a crime had been committed.
“The significant thing is that the information will remain public until after the trial and sentencing,” he said.