What You Need To Know:
Pervis Payne, a 54-year-old death row inmate who is Black, has been granted a temporary reprieve by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, which is set to expire midnight April 10. At that time, the Tennessee Supreme Court will regain authority to set another execution date, if they choose to do so.
Payne has maintained that he is innocent since his 1988 death row conviction for the stabbing deaths of Charisse Christopher, 28, and her 2-year-old daughter, Lacie. Christopher’s 3-year-old son Nicholas, who was stabbed multiple times, survived the attack. The victims are White. Payne, who is intellectually disabled, testified that he was responding to cries for help from his girlfriend’s neighbor who he found Christopher brutally attacked, along with her children. Witnesses, including Payne, testified that an unknown man was seen running from the apartment before Payne entered the apartment. After trying to help, he felt he would be mistaken as the attacker and ran as police arrived.
Prosecution argued that Payne was under the influence of drugs and became violent when Christopher rejected his sexual advances. No evidence of drug use was found, fingernail clippings from Christopher, who scratched her attacker, disappeared, and DNA evidence from an unknown man was found on a knife used in the stabbing.
As the reprieve approaches expiration, Payne’s case has gained new attention on TikTok with over 24 million views from multiple users and support from civil rights advocate Martin Luther King III and federal Judge Ken Starr, who have asked Governor Lee to commute Payne’s death sentence.
According to The Innocence Project, “Tennessee lawmakers are currently considering a bill that could protect Mr. Payne from execution due to his intellectual disability, under the Supreme Court ruling on Atkins vs. Virginia.” The bill filed by the Tennessee Black Caucus is set to be discussed in a Senate judiciary committee and a House committee this week.
“Pervis, in particular, is just so grateful for the support that he and his family are receiving, and we hope that message reaches the heart and mind of Gov. Lee because he really is the person who has the authority to free Pervis from death row,” said Payne’s attorney Kelly Henry.
Why We Need To Know:
Sign the petition at https://innocenceproject.org/ to free Pervis Payne. Residents of Tennessee can call Gov. Lee at 615-741-2001 to let him know you support clemency for Mr. Payne.