Tennessee House of Representatives member Vince Dean has sponsored HB 1293. HB 1293 as introduced creates the continuing offense of sexual abuse of a child which is committing three or more incidents of sexual abuse of a child over more than a 90 period or five incidents involving two or more victims within a 90 day period. It establishes venue and punishment. It was in committee last week and is it for a full vote next Tuesday.
The Tennessee District Attorney’s Conference is pushing the bill. I spoke to a ADA yesterday from outside of Davidson County about the bill. " You mean the Jerry Sandusky bill." One way to get a bill passed is to name it after one of the most despicable recent sexual predators. It gives the bill some appeal to be tough on sexual predators.
The bigger question does HB 1293 violate the Tennessee Constitution. Article I Section 9 provides ;
That in all criminal prosecutions, the accused hath the right to be heard by himself and his counsel; to demand the nature and cause of the accusation against him, and to have a copy thereof, to meet the witnesses face to face, to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and in prosecutions by indictment or presentment, a speedy public trial, by an impartial jury of the County in which the crime shall have been committed, and shall not be compelled to give evidence against himself.
The bottom line is that a trial must occur in the county in which the crime occurred. The purpose of the bill is to try all allegations of a sex crime at the same time. It will create a abuse of the system. In muti-count indictments alleging different dates and different victims of sexual abuse, a lawyer may ask the court to sever the counts of the indictment or try the cases separately. Sometimes that does not lead to a fair trial. You know the old adage "where there is smoke there is fire". If a jury hears evidence of all kinds of victims and several instances of sexual conduct, it may lead to an unfair trial. This bill is an attempt to do an end run around Tennessee’s Constitutional protections of one accused of a crime.
One other part of the bill is that it allows , the DA to pick a venue or location of the trial. In a practical sense, the District Attorney can pick where the case will be tried. As any one knows , judges are different from county to county , it may lead to folks picking the venue that might be more favorable to the State of Tennessee. Then , that could lead to motions for change of venue.
All bills must contain a fiscal note or how much more it is going to cost the state. The number for this bill is set at $300,000.00 I would submit that it is just a fraction of the cost. There will be constitutional challenges to the law to determine if it is in fact constitutional, Long delays and motions to determine if the case is a continuing offense crime. Also, the price of incarceration will sky rocket.
Interested in learning more ? Here is a link to the bill. Our legislature is really worried on protecting gun ownership rights but weakens the right of one facing a criminal trial every session.