High Profile Case Prompts Push For Stronger Sentences
by Mark Bellinger
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - New laws proposed on Tennessee's Capitol Hill target offenders of sexual child abuse and attempted murder. Under the new measures, those convicted would serve more time, and they'd be easier to prosecute. The proposals came from the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference.
There are several bills on Capitol Hill designed to crack down on crime. One of them affects attempted first degree murder in cases like the one involving Metro Police Sergeant Mark Chesnut in 2009. Sgt. Chesnut was shot multiple times by two men fleeing police from Mississippi. A jury convicted the men on several charges including attempted first degree murder.
"The perpetrators were convicted, but they were sentenced at 30% as opposed to under this law at 85%," said District Attorney Torry Johnson.
Somerville Republican Representative Barret Rich is carrying House Bill 10-38. It increases time served for attempted first degree murder to at least 85% when the victim receives serious bodily injury.
Another big proposal from the state's District Attorneys is called the Jerry Sandusky bill. Last year, Pennsylvania tried several molestation cases involving the former Penn State Assistant football coach at one trial. Right now, you can't do that in Tennessee, but this bill would change that.
"We think that's something that actually ought to be beneficial from the state's standpoint as far as money and not costing that much," said Johnson.
District Attorney General Johnson says the Sandusky bill will probably save money, but longer prison sentences for first degree murder will cost an estimated $135,000. "No question about it. None of these things are free, and that's the challenge the legislature faces in trying to figure out where to put the money," said Johnson. "But, we believe these are things that will really benefit the citizens of Tennessee."
District attorneys are also seeking longer sentences for people who are convicted of aggravated child neglect or endangerment. Those sentences would also increase from 30% time served to 85%.