New legislation could impact death penalty case for Tenn. inmate Pervis Payne

Tennessee House, Senate pass bill to stop executions of intellectually disabled

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - New legislation from Tennessee lawmakers could impact death row cases, including one that happened in Millington 33 years ago.

“We do not execute those with intellectual disability in Tennessee,” said Sen. Todd Gardenhire from Chattanooga, as he addressed his fellow state senators.

HB-1062 looks to give inmates on death row the right to appeal their sentence based on the grounds that they are intellectually disabled.

Shelby County DA Amy Weirich responds to death penalty appeal for Pervis Payne

“Those that are currently have had their cases adjudicated and are on death row, this bill -- they cannot go back and retry the case,” explained Gardenhire.

The Tennessee Senate passed the bill 28-1 Monday.

Though his name was not mentioned on the Senate floor, it could impact the local case of death row inmate Pervis Payne.

Payne was convicted of stabbing Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter, Lacie, to death in Millington in 1987. For over 30 years Payne has maintained his innocence.

Recently, his case has drawn public attention. Questions surrounding how investigators handled evidence, and the fact that DNA testing didn’t exist at the time led to protests against his execution.

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

His attorney Kelly Henry claims race was a big factor in his conviction. Henry also claims that Payne is intellectually disabled.

“Until there’s no longer breath in my body or his, we will not stop until we bring Pervis home to his family,” she said.

Payne was scheduled to be executed in December, but Governor Bill Lee granted him reprieve. That reprieve ended this month, and a new execution date could be set at any moment.

Though his attorneys claim he is intellectually disabled, District Attorney Amy Weirich says nothing they’ve provided proves his innocence.

HB-1062 is headed to Governor Bill Lee’s desk but it has not yet been determined if he will sign it.

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