Hulsey's voluntary manslaughter bill advances

Hank Hayes • Feb 26, 2020 at 7:30 AM

NASHVILLE — A Tennessee House Criminal Justice Subcommittee advanced legislation Tuesday that would increase the penalty for voluntary manslaughter.

The bill is sponsored in the House by Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport.

A conviction for voluntary manslaughter, a Class C felony, currently carries a jail sentence of three to six years, according to the state’s Fiscal Review Committee.

Under Hulsey’s bill, voluntary manslaughter would be upgraded to a Class B felony with an eight to 12 year jail term.

The Fiscal Review Committee determined Hulsey’s bill will increase state expenses by $4.9 million.

Northeast Tennessee prosecutors, including First Judicial District Attorney General Ken Baldwin, have expressed support for the legislation.

Baldwin told the subcommittee that voluntary manslaughter now carries the same penalty as aggravated assault where no one dies.

“If I sell more than a half a gram of coke (cocaine), that’s a Class B felony,” Baldwin said. “Surely voluntary manslaughter is a more-serious-than-that crime.”

Baldwin defined voluntary manslaughter as when you kill someone in a state of passion or anger.

Hulsey said juries are instructed that they can take a murder charge and plea it down to a lesser sentence.

“But the juries are not told what the sentence is,” Hulsey pointed out. “At the end of the day, you can come up with a huge inequity ... where you can serve way more time for not killing somebody.”

The bill now moves on to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.