MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Tennessee Supreme Court could set a new execution date any moment for a Mid-South man on death row.
It comes as Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee considers whether to spare the man’s life by granting clemency.
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.
Lee granted Payne a temporary reprieve, postponing his December execution date because of the pandemic.
That reprieve expired on Friday and now the state supreme court could set a new execution date any moment.
Kelley Henry is Payne’s attorney.
She says investigators dropped the ball by mishandling evidence that could have pointed to another suspect.
Henry also says Payne’s race was also a big factor in his conviction.
“It’s been so difficult because the deck has been stacked against him from the beginning. He’s a black man accused of the brutal murder of a white woman,” said Henry.
Henry also says Payne has an intellectual disability and it would violate the U.S. Constitution to execute him.
Tennessee lawmakers are considering a bill that would let Payne and others on death row petition a trial court to determine if they’re ineligible for the death penalty due to intellectual disability.
They’re set to hear testimony on the proposed legislation on Wednesday.
“A person of his age and intellectual disability in 1987 in Memphis was no match for a powerful Shelby County district attorney,” said Henry. “You simply cannot execute a man with this much doubt. He is innocent and he deserves justice after all this time.”
This case is getting new attention because Payne’s story is being told on TikTok.
Henry said nearly 700,000 people have also signed a petition at PervisPayne.org in an effort to stop his execution.
The governor has not announced any decision on his part.
“I know that (Governor Lee) has received thousands of letters, emails, telephone calls from supporters of Mr. Payne and I believe that he has taken this case very seriously,” said Henry. “We had the opportunity to make a presentation to his legal counsel prior to the reprieve, and we continue to investigate the case in order to come up with even more evidence of Mr. Payne’s innocence.”
But Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich says nothing Payne’s attorneys have presented proves his innocence.
Weirich released the following statement:
“If the facts aren’t on your side, attack the investigation. Mr. Payne has been vigorously defended by teams of lawyers for more than 30 years. The case has been reviewed by the Shelby County Criminal Court, by the U.S. Supreme Court and by every state and federal court in between. The proof of his guilt is overwhelming. As with nearly every death penalty case, this is a last-ditch defense effort to use press releases and social media to shift public sympathy to the convicted offender and away from the only victims in the case – a young mother and her young children who were stabbed more than 100 times.”