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Families of First Degree Murder Victims oppose bill to allow murderers parole after 25 years

HOPE for Victims said they oppose HB 1532.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Families from HOPE for Victims gathered near West Town Mall, Monday to raise awareness against HB 1532. 

The bill, which already passed the Tennessee Senate, would allow a person serving a life sentence for First Degree Murder to be eligible for parole after 25 years. 

Current Tennessee Law requires those convicted of First Degree Murder to wait 51 years before they are eligible for parole. 

Joan Berry is the Executive Director of HOPE for Victims. She and her husband, Michael, lost their daughter in 2004. 

Johnia Berry's killer committed suicide in jail, so this law wouldn't apply to them. But they still felt the need to speak on behalf of victims. 

"To let a murderer out after 25 years?" said Michael Berry. "It's not right for the victims." 

Knoxville District Attorney General Charme Allen opposes the bill, too. 

"It's just a very bad bill for victims," General Allen said. "When you leave this courtroom, we should be able to stand behind what we have told you a sentence will be." 

Senator Kerry Roberts delivered an emotional speech on the floor of the Tennessee Senate in favor of the bill. 

"Under certain circumstances, we believe the right thing to do is to give somebody hope," said Senator Roberts. "We can breath, we can function, perhaps, but we cannot live as God intended us to live without hope." 

The bill's fiscal note said it would save Tennessee $2.4 million per year and the new rule would apply to five people convicted of First Degree murder every year. 

Senator Roberts said he didn't think the number would be that high. 

"You have to earn it," Senator Roberts said. "Literally, you would have to be somebody that came to know Jesus in prison, you'd have that Saul to Paul experience in prison." 

General Allen said 25 years is not long enough for someone to serve in prison after committing First Degree Murder. 

"I believe 51 years is where the hope should start, not at 25 years," General Allen said. "Those that have lost a loved one to homicide never get their loved one back ever." 

Michael Berry agreed. 

"To let a murderer out after 25 years? It's not right for the victims," said Berry. "They might as well take the locks off and put barn doors on."