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Jillian’s Law unanimously approved by General Assembly

The General Assembly this week unanimously approved legislation improving  public safety and mental health in Tennessee.

Jillian’s Law, sponsored by House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, requires criminal defendants deemed incompetent to stand trial to be  committed to an appropriate treatment facility. This is not currently required by  state law.

“This bill absolutely will save lives in the great state of Tennessee,” Lamberth said  prior to the vote on Monday. “If someone is not competent to assist in their own  defense… right now under the current law we let them just walk right out the door of  the jail or the courthouse to go out there and endanger our streets. It is not right,  and we have an opportunity to change that today.”

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House Bill 1640 also requires individuals deemed incompetent to stand trial to be  entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a namecheck database of people who are prohibited from buying or owning a firearm.

The legislation is named after Jillian Ludwig, a Belmont student who was fatally  shot while walking in a Nashville park in November. Her killer was a repeat violent  offender who was prosecuted in April 2023 for a separate crime of aggravated  assault with a deadly weapon. However, the case against him was dismissed after  three court-appointed physicians testified that he was incompetent to stand trial and was  released from custody.

State lawmakers this week also unanimously passed House Joint Resolution 1027,  filed by State Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, remembering Ludwig’s “impeccable character and her stalwart  commitment to living the examined life with courage and conviction.”

“Jillian was a beacon of light in her community, not just in New Jersey, but here in  Nashville,” Williams said. “It is our desire… to make sure her legacy lives on and that we honor her in this way.”

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“We want to… make sure that other families in this state don’t ever have to  experience the pain that (Jillian’s family) has been through.”

House Bill 1640 will now head to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk to be signed into law. It will  take effect July 1.

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