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TN man removed from death row more than 30 years after conviction; will serve out 2 life sentences

Gov. Lee signed a law in 2021 banning executions of people with intellectual disabilities. Payne's execution was scheduled for 2020, but the pandemic delayed it.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Pervis Payne's death penalty will be replaced with two life sentences, according to District Attorney Amy Weirich. 

Payne has been in prison since 1988, accused of  killing a Millington woman and her daughter. 

The two were found stabbed to death in their home in 1987. 

He was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of assault to commit first-degree murder.  

For 34 years, the conviction and death sentences have been reviewed multiple times by state and federal courts. Payne's defense argued that at the time of the murder, he was intellectual disabled with an IQ of 78 at the 1988 trial.

BREAKING: Pervis Payne will be removed from death row because it is unconstitutional to execute someone with an...

Posted by Innocence Project on Thursday, November 18, 2021

A state expert has examined Payne and all of the records available and could not find that Payne's intellectual functioning is outside the range for disability. 

After reviewing these findings, the District Attorney General's office has petitioned to the Criminal Courts that the death penalty be removed and replaced with two life sentences for the murders of Charisse and Lacie Christopher.

In a statement, Pervis Payne’s Attorney said 

“As a person with intellectual disability, Pervis Payne cannot be executed under our Constitution. We are grateful to the Tennessee legislature, under Rep. G.A. Hardaway’s leadership, for passing a new law to allow Mr. Payne to present evidence of his intellectual disability in court, and to Governor Lee for signing the bill into law. The Shelby County District Attorney was right to drop its request for a hearing on Mr. Payne’s intellectual disability. The D.A.’s concession will avoid years of needless litigation. We look forward to Mr. Payne’s resentencing hearing. This is some measure of justice for Mr. Payne and his family, but our fight for full exoneration of this innocent man will continue.”

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