NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A proposal would provide a defense for victims of human trafficking if that person committed a violent crime as they were being trafficked.
Democratic state representative London Lamar sponsored HB 17 in the 2019 legislative session. It would've given protections to people who committed a crime when they were trafficked and thought their lives were in danger or were threatened with bodily harm. However, that bill was sent to summer study when other lawmakers raised some red flags about potential abuse if the bill became law.
"That seemed like a very blunt instrument to a lot of people in the stakeholder community and law enforcement and others," said Dickson Republican State Representative Michael Curcio. "I think this committee agreed with that."
Rep. Curcio presided over Monday's summer study of the issue. "I think most of the difficulty was around the presumptive language," he said.
"The language before, I was concerned would really lend itself for someone to take advantage of it to commit a cold blooded murder," said Portland Republican Rep. William Lamberth.
Rep. Lamar said she was aware of the committees critiques of the bill and plans to make changes to the language so that the bill can still be beneficial to trafficking victims without any potential for misuse. She said new language would be added to the bill where the victim would have to prove they were a victim of trafficking.
"It's up to the defense to prove and it's up to the judge and the jury that this is sufficient enough evidence. This bill would not automatically give you self defense, it's an opportunity to prove self defense," said Lamar.
Lamar said the bill was written in direct response to the story of Cyntoia Brown. Brown was sentence to life in prison for the murder of 43-year-old Johnny Allen.
Brown said, at the time, she was a victim of human trafficking.