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How a Tennessee woman changed victims' rights forever

How a Tennessee woman changed victims' rights forever (FOX 17 News)
How a Tennessee woman changed victims' rights forever (FOX 17 News)
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Tennessee’s premiere victims’ rights group has decided to honor a woman for being a trailblazer for victims.

Rebecca Easley changed laws, changed minds, and changed hearts when it came to victims' rights. Sometimes the most awful things bring out the best in people. For Easley, it was the torture and murder of her sister.

She turned her agony into a crusade for victims.

Forty-six years ago, Debra Groseclose baked to death in a car trunk after being raped and stabbed in Memphis. Her husband was convicted of hiring two terrible men to carry out the hit.

Tonya Shackleford was the six-year-old daughter of Groseclose. It took her years to realize what Aunt Becky had done for justice.

“Fearless, determined, she was going to be heard, and was going to fight for the rights. And I’m just in awe, like, really in awe of what she did to help. She has helped tremendous amounts of other victims,” said Shackleford.

Easley went beyond her own pain when a supreme court justice ruled that raping and murdering an 77-year-old virgin wasn’t cruel or unusual. Easley toured the state in a recall movement.

Justice Penny White is still the only supreme court justice in Tennessee ever removed by vote.

Easley played a huge role.

“And she just thought, I’m getting justice for my sister,” said Verna Wyatt of Tennessee Voices for Victims.

“There’s so much pain here. But it wasn’t just for her sister, it was for so many other victims. She was the only one out there saying, hey, this isn’t right. And she was very vocal. And she was very good at getting the news media to pay attention. And she was just just relentless. She would, if she was the only one standing out front of the courthouse with a sign. She didn’t care.”

Tennessee Voices for Victims has been fighting for victims for decades.

Verna Wyatt and Valerie Craig have fought and lobbied and demanded better treatment for victims. They were instrumental in changing a Tennessee law that forbade showing a photo of the victim to the jury. They have now helped create victim’s assistance teams for mass violence.

We don’t have time to list all their accomplishments, but it is important to know that they have a brand new victims’ rights award.

The Rebecca Easley trailblazer award. For the woman who first fought for her sister and then fought for all victims of violent crime in Tennessee.

“It’s a heavy burden. And it’s a heavy burden that never goes away. And on top of all of that. She was standing up and that’s hard to do to stand up and speak out when you feel like the whole system is against you. She did it anyway,” said Wyatt.

Easley will be given this brand new award at a dinner and mayoral forum debate on crime on May 23. It is open to the public.

If you’d like to attend, tickets are $50 dollars. Guests can eat, support victims, and hear top mayoral candidates debate crime. Here is the link. Click here for more information.

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