Judge ignores death sentence of Pervis Payne, who will be executed for a crime he says he didn’t commit

As a result, Payne now faces two life sentences, though it remains to be decided whether he will serve his sentences concurrently or consecutively.

“Thirty-four years of trauma, pain, and fear just left me in that courtroom,” Payne’s attorney, Federal Public Defender Assistant Superintendent Kelley Henry, said in an interview. on Friday, describe moments before Tuesday’s hearing when Payne cried as he hugged her.

“It was really just an incredible moment for all of us,” she said.

Payne maintains her innocence in the 1987 murders of Charisse Christopher, 28, and her 2-year-old daughter, who were stabbed to death in an attack at their apartment in Millington, a suburb of Memphis. Payne received two death sentences after being convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, as well as assault with intent to kill Christopher’s 3-year-old son, who survived the attack.

Mr. Henry said Payne had spent years trying to establish that he had an intellectual disability as a reason he should not be put to death.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 in Atkins against Virginia that it was unconstitutional to execute a person with an intellectual disability. But Payne – whose attorneys say he has a functional IQ of 68 – was unable to make his case in Tennessee until Governor Bill Lee signed a legal document this year changed the state’s definition of intellectual disability and established a process for death row inmates who declare themselves disabled to appeal their convictions.
‘s office Shelby District Attorney Amy Weirich announced last week they filed a motion to have Payne’s death penalty removed after admitting a state expert examined Payne and “cannot say that Payne’s intellectual functioning falls outside the scope for intellectual disability.”
Tennessee governor grants temporary pardon for death row inmates over Covid-19 concerns

Shelby County Judge Paula Skahan wrote in an order filed Tuesday that Payne’s lawsuit is “supported by two expert opinions that conclude that Plaintiff has an intellectual disability under Tennessee law as well as decision of the Supreme Court of the United States.”

“I can go home and relax,” Payne’s father said Tuesday, according to CNN affiliate WMC“and know that justice has prevailed.”
“Thanksgiving will never be the same for me and I’m sure I’m speaking for my dad as well,” says Rolanda Holman, Payne’s older sister, by Project Innocence, which is related to Payne’s case.

“Even though he can’t come to the table and eat Thanksgiving with us,” she said, “it gives me such a boost and ignites my fire even further to work towards the day.” that he would be able to sit at the table with our family and have a nice slice of turkey. “

As for the victim’s family, the DA’s office said it met with them this month “to explain the current reality we are facing.”

“The family was not happy, but they understood,” the statement said. “We cannot change the facts and we cannot change the law.”

Carl Payne, front left in front of the microphone, speaks to reporters about his son, Pervis Payne, on Tuesday, November 23, 2021, in Memphis.

Innocent request

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for December 13, when the judge is expected to decide whether Payne should serve two life sentences simultaneously, as his lawyers have requested. , or consecutively, as required by the DA.

According to the WMC, Henry said after Tuesday’s hearing that a concurrent conviction means Payne would be eligible for parole in about six years.

While Payne, his family and supporters are grateful for this week’s ruling, they will not rest until he is exonerated, Henry told CNN.

Henry told CNN that Payne was visiting his girlfriend across the hall with the victims when he spotted them. Payne, 20 at the time, tried to help the victims, who were white, she said, but realized that as a Black man, he would be suspected of committing a crime. , and he fled the scene.

Judge allows DNA testing in case of Tennessee man on death row for 32 years
Last year, a judge ruled that the evidence in the case must be through DNA testing, and according to a statement from Payne .’s attorney, results showed that male DNA from an unidentified third party was found on the murder weapon. However, the DNA was “too degraded to identify an alternative suspect through the FBI’s database,” according to his attorney. Therefore, it is not enough to vindicate Payne. Payne’s attorneys were unable to obtain other evidence – like the victim’s fingernails – for a DNA test.

While the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office acknowledged Payne could not be sentenced to death, it denied his claim of innocence, saying the evidence of his guilt “never changed or waned.”

The statement said DNA testing failed to exonerate Payne and that Payne’s conviction was reviewed numerous times by appeals courts at both the state and federal levels.

“The Tennessee Supreme Court called Payne’s self-serving testimony ‘incredible and contrary to human behavior and experience,'” the statement said. “The US Supreme Court called the evidence against Payne ‘overwhelming and relatively untenable.'”

There is still hope for Payne’s family, Henry said.

Henry said: “His sister and father were people of deep faith, and they believed that Pervis would return home soon.” “They believe this is the will of God, and that God is at work in his case.”


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