Bass Pro Pyramid glows purple for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

Updated: Apr. 19, 2020 at 9:55 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Sunday is the start of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. A group of activists in the state are hoping to change the state constitution to provide more rights for victims.

“That’s going to be purple tonight and I’m going to think of him,” said Marianna Purcell Dunavant, Marsy’s Law Victim Outreach Director.

The Bass Pro Pyramid shined in purple lights Sunday night for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Outside the Pyramid, Marianne Purcell Dunavant held a photo of her former fiancé, Chris Caris, close.

Caris was shot in the back of the head and killed during a robbery at a Nashville pizzeria he worked at in 2007.

“It’s so funny that we’re standing in front of the Bass Pro. Chris was my dreamer, he was such a free spirit. His dream was to be a professional fisherman,” said Dunavant.

Dunavant still wears the diamond from their engagement ring around her neck each day.

Because she and Caris were not married, Dunavant says she was denied information and removed from the process during the trial.

“Someone else shared a life with him too. And to be excluded from the process was just heart wrenching,” said Dunavant.

Dunavant has taken her pain and turned it into action with Marsy’s Law.

Marsy’s Law is a national movement changing state constitutions to give victims more rights in legal proceedings, including notifying victims of court actions, allowing victims to speak during trial, and expanding the definition of a victim to a person who lives with the person, all at the discretion of a judge.

“I just think it’s important to victims to have equal rights as offenders do,” said Dunavant.

The ACLU has criticized some aspects of Marsy’s law in the past.

In 2018, the ACLU of New Hampshire said in part, “Marsy’s Law could actually strengthen the state’s hand against a defendant, undermining a bedrock principle of our legal system — the presumption of innocence.”

For Dunavant, she believes Marsy’s Law doesn’t infringe on defendants’ rights, but instead allows victims to find more closure and be more active in the trial process.

“You never know how important this is until you lose a family member. And so I always say don’t wait until something happens to you to do something. And this is the time to act,” said Dunavant.

Because Marsy’s Law would change the state constitution, it has to pass 2 general assemblies before it can be voted by Tennesseans in a gubernatorial election, which would occur in 2022.

Find a copy of the law at the following links:

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