MEMPHIS, Tenn —
The Tennessee Black Caucus of Legislators is sponsoring a bill that gives people with an intellectual disability, who have been sentenced to death, a chance to live.
Supporters are hoping the prefiling of House Bill 0001 will stop the execution of Pervis Payne.
Payne is on death row for the murders of Charisse Christopher and her daughter Lacie, who were killed more than 30 years ago.
The bill, sponsored by Representative G.A. Hardaway, would allow a path through the judicial system for Pervis Payne and others to pursue justice. The only problem is Payne is set to be executed next month which is before the Tennessee General Assembly meets.
“Any unconstitutional execution amounts to state sponsored murder,” said Representative Hardaway.
Wednesday’s zoom call was filed with local clergy members, attorneys, and supporters of death row inmate, Pervis Payne.
“The filing of today’s bill the very first bill of the 112th general assembly represents a victory for democracy in justice, it demonstrates how our system is supposed to work,” said Kelley Henry, attorney for Pervis Payne.
Henry says her team asked Governor Bill Lee to grant Payne a reprieve because Tennessee legislators won’t consider this bill until January.
Other law makers and clergy members expressed their support.
“We got a young man who spent so much time in prison facing death row and he’s under a circumstance that’s a little different from a lot others in that particular space so we want to continue to fight for those people,” said Representative Jesse Chism, who represents District 85.
“I think that the church is obviously necessary to lift up the morale standard, should the state of Tennessee do this clinical murder with a botched case,” said Bishop David Hall of COGIC.
Payne’s attorneys hoped critical evidence approved back in September would have exonerated him.
“On July 30th of this year the Shelby county DA confirmed that fingernail scrapings did exist. And then on September 1 when we got to the hearing, that evidence had vanished,” Henry said.
Payne’s execution is set for December 3.
UPDATE 11/5/2020- Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich sent the following statement to Local 24 News:
“There is no glitch in the law. The current law does provide the opportunity to address intellectual disability, but Mr. Payne chose not to raise the issue within the time the law provides the claim must be raised. As a Federal Judge observed in 2018: ‘Payne's failure to pursue such a claim is perhaps unsurprising because his I.Q. scores over several decades did not appear to demonstrate that he met the first factor for intellectual disability under Tennessee's statute. On a test taken in 1987, Payne scored an I.Q. of 78, he scored 78 again on a 1996 test, and the result of his 2010 test was 74.’ It is time that Mr. Payne be held accountable for his brutal attack on a mother and her two young children.”