David Toney

David Toney's father, Tom Toney, was tragically abducted and murdered in 1994, just six months after their family moved to Tennessee from Kentucky. Upon learning about the upcoming parole hearing for his father's murderer in the fall of 2020, David, along with family and friends, mobilized to collect signatures for a petition demanding the killer remain incarcerated. Their collective efforts bore fruit when the parole board initially denied parole and declared the perpetrator ineligible for future consideration. However, their relief was short-lived as a new directive allowed life-sentenced inmates, including the murderer, to be considered for parole retroactively.

Mobilizing a coalition of law enforcement, prosecutors, survivors, and advocacy groups, including Marsy’s Law for Kentucky, they successfully challenged the directive, ultimately securing its repeal. Now, as legislators in Tennessee consider Marsy's Law, David is using his voice, and his experience, to help others in the state understand the importance of victims' rights through Marsy's Law. 


Can you share a little about your personal experience as a crime victim within the court system in Kentucky? 

My experience dealing with the court system was generally positive considering we were dealing with a kidnapping, missing person case for over thirty days, and ultimately the murder of my dad. The representatives from the courts did everything they promised they would. The people in the prosecutor’s office stayed in touch with offers of counseling and just checking on my stepmother. The police department and the prosecutor’s office joined us in the killer’s parole hearing in November of 2020, and we achieved our goal of a “serve out,” meaning no chance of him ever being paroled. Things were looking as good as could be in the 26 years since the murder.

What were some of the challenges you faced and how did the system respond to your needs? 

Our problem with the Department of Corrections began in May of the following year when the prosecutor’s office reached out to me about the chairperson of the parole board, who had issued a directive on April 1st stating that no inmates would be given a serve-out on their first try; and made it retroactive, thus giving 44 killers new parole hearings. I spoke with the prosecutor’s office and obtained a list of all of the prosecutors who had cases affected by this directive and called them all. During this effort, I spoke with the Governor’s office, the Attorney General’s office, and every prosecutor who had a case affected. During this time, I was introduced to Marsy’s Law Kentucky. Marsy’s Law was the grounds that the A.G. used to file suit against the state for violating the constitutional rights of the victims’ families. Through Marsy’s Law, we were able to stop it and keep criminals in prison. During the process, I found out the former parole board chairperson misrepresented a judge’s ruling as the basis of her directive as well as contacting other states and foreign countries to try to find a way around Marsy’s Law.

How do you think Marsy's Law would help crime victims and survivors in Tennessee, and are there any specific rights or provisions that you believe would be particularly advantageous? 

Marsy’s Law gives crime victims and their representatives a guaranteed voice and a seat at the table, and ensures that our voices are heard. It is difficult to pick one particular provision because everyone’s situation is different. In our case, the right to be consulted and have our voices heard was key. The Department of Corrections did not tell anyone what they were up to until a reporter broke the story a month and a half later.

What advice would you give to other crime victims who are currently going through the justice system? 

The best advice that I could someone is to keep fighting and get to know the victim's advocate in the prosecutor’s office. They have a ton of resources that they can help people with. These are the people who would encourage me when I would start to feel defeated. They were the people who introduced me to Marsy’s Law.

In closing, staying involved and volunteering with Marsy’s Law has been the most helpful thing that I have been able to do to be able to return to somewhat of a normal life.