Tennessee special session bill would make minors’ autopsy records private



(The Center Square) – A bill introduced for Tennessee’s upcoming special session on public safety would make the autopsy reports of minors private and no longer public records.

House Majority Leader William Lamberth introduced House Bill 7007, which says the parent or legal guardian of a minor victim of violent crime must first consent to the release of the autopsy report, as long as the parent or guardian is not a suspect in the death.

“This is an important step we can take to preserve the dignity of a murdered child and protect the privacy of parents and siblings who are suffering an unimaginable loss,” Lamberth said in a statement. “Sensitive information obtained in a medical examiner’s report or autopsy should never be used to further victimize and traumatize these families.”

Reporter Phil Williams from NewsChannel5 in Nashville, however, highlighted how his reporting on the death of a young child using an autopsy report led to the conviction of his murderer.

“Jeffry Kelton Skaggs was a case that stuck with me. Eventually, we got justice. Again, that would NOT have happened if the autopsy reports had been closed,” Williams wrote on X.com. “The legislation leaves it up to the discretion of a judge to determine what is “good cause,” but it’s difficult to even make that argument if you can’t see the autopsy report.”

The bill is one of 10 House bills posted for the special session, which includes a House Bill 7010 from Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, that would create a new felony charge for knowingly inducing or coercing a minor under 18 into committing theft of a firearm or a robbery/burglary involving theft of a firearm.

No Senate bills have been posted yet, but several have been proposed.

Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, introduced House Bill 7008, which requires mental health professionals and behavior analysts to inform the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse or local law enforcement if a patient threatened violence against a group of people such as school or daycare students, individuals at a place of worship or a person’s family,

“As public servants, our highest duty is to protect the safety and security of all Tennesseans,” Zachary said in a statement. “Currently, existing state law only requires threats made against a clearly identified victim to be reported by mental health professionals. This is an immediate, life-saving action we can take that will significantly enhance reporting requirements and communication to the proper authorities when a credible threat is made.”



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