MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is postponing the execution of a man sentenced to die for the deaths of a Millington woman and her daughter more than three decades ago.
Pervis Payne was convicted of stabbing Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter, Lacie, to death in 1987. Christopher’s 3-year-old son, Nicholas, was also stabbed but survived.
Payne’s attorneys won the right to new DNA testing in September and petitioned the governor’s office for clemency. They claim to have the support of more than 100 Tennessee faith, legal, civic and grassroots supporters.
Payne’s attorneys also say he has an intellectual disability and claim his execution would be unconstitutional.
Payne was scheduled to die by lethal injection Dec. 3.
Lee released this statement Friday: “I am granting Pervis Payne a temporary reprieve from execution until April 9, 2021, due to the challenges and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The governor did not comment on the pending DNA testing or Payne’s disability.
Payne’s attorney, Kelley Henry, released the following statement following the news:
"Governor Lee was right to delay Pervis Payne’s execution due to the Covid-19 crisis. Bringing witnesses into the prison is unsafe for them, the staff, and the prisoners. This additional time will give the Tennessee Legislature the opportunity to pass bi-partisan legislation to allow Mr. Payne’s and others' claims of intellectual disability to be heard in court.
The U.S. Supreme Court and the Tennessee Supreme Court has held that the execution of people with intellectual disability is unconstitutional. Currently, there is no process for people with intellectual disability in Mr. Payne’s procedural posture to have their claims heard in court. We are grateful to Rep. G.A. Hardaway and the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators for filing bi-partisan legislation to create such a procedure.”
This additional time will also allow us to investigate Mr. Payne’s strong innocence claim, together with the Innocence Project. We are grateful to the 150 faith, legal, legislative, and community groups in Memphis and across the state that support clemency for Mr. Payne. Together with Mr. Payne’s family, we will continue the fight to prove Mr. Payne’s innocence.”