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Bill passes to stop executions of intellectually disabled

The GOP-supermajority House and Senate passed the bill by wide margins Monday.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee lawmakers have passed legislation designed to prevent death row inmates with an intellectual disability from being executed. 

The GOP-supermajority House and Senate passed the bill by wide margins Monday.

Advocates point to inmate Pervis Payne, who attorneys call intellectually disabled as he awaits an execution date. 

Payne was sentenced to death in the 1987 fatal stabbings of Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter. 

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing a person with an intellectual disability is unconstitutional. 

However, Tennessee’s Supreme Court later determined there was no procedure for death row inmates to reopen their cases to explore intellectual disability claims.  

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Tennessee lawmakers are advancing legislation designed to prevent death row inmates with an intellectual disability from being executed. 

Senate Bill 1236 is set to be debated in the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 20. The bill gives death row inmates with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to have their sentences altered.

The proposal has gained a groundswell of support from disability advocates and death penalty critics. They argue that Tennessee is long overdue in addressing the issue. 

They also point to inmate Pervis Payne, who attorneys call intellectually disabled as he awaits an execution date. Payne was sentenced to death in the 1987 fatal stabbings of Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter. 

So far, the bill has faced minimal resistance advancing out of legislative committees, but it still must clear the full House and Senate.