New DNA testing ordered for Tennessee death row inmate’s case

New DNA testing ordered for Tennessee death row inmate’s case
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A legal victory has been won for a death row inmate convicted in a brutal Mid-South double murder.

“We’re here to protest against the execution of Pervis Payne. We believe he is innocent,” said Adam Jeffries, protester.

About a dozen protesters held signs at Union and McLean in support of Pervis Payne who’s been on Tennessee’s death row for more than 30 years.

He is scheduled to be executed in December.

“Mr. Payne has consistently said that he did not commit the crime. He asked for DNA testing since 2006,” said Robert Hutton, attorney and death penalty expert.

And on Wednesday, Judge Paula Skahan ruled that DNA evidence in Payne’s case can be tested.

“It’s the best opportunity that we have to get to the truth after 33 years of trying to establish his innocence. Mr. Payne is very grateful to the court,” said Kelly Henry, public defender.

Pervis Payne was convicted in the 1987 stabbing deaths in Millington of Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter, Lacie. Her 3-year-old son was also stabbed but survived.

DNA testing did not exist at the time of Payne’s trial.

This will be the first time DNA from the crime scene will be tested.

“It absolutely can establish his innocence. In fact, that’s what the court found. What she said in her ruling that there’s a reasonable probability that a jury would not have convicted Mr. Payne if DNA from a third party on multiple items of evidence that is not Mr. Payne’s blood or the victim’s blood,” said Henry.

Payne’s public defender, Kelly Henry, says some of Payne’s DNA likely will be found at the crime scene because he said he cut his finger after pulling the knife from Lacie’s neck.

The victims lived a couple of apartments down from Payne’s girlfriend.

He said he discovered the victims after hearing calls for help.

Judge Skahan pointed out in her ruling that it is possible the evidence has become contaminated over the years.

Kelly Henry says the results of the DNA should be back in 60 days. She and Robert Hutton say the results could also prove Pervis Payne’s guilt.

“It could show that Mr. Payne in fact did it because his DNA could be there,” said Hutton.

In a statement, Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich said her office will not appeal the ruling to test the DNA. But there is a concern that touch DNA has been deposited on the items over the last 33 years.

Shelby County DA opposing effort to test DNA evidence in 1987 double murder

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