NASHVILLE—The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators (TBCSL) is asking Governor Bill Lee to commute the life sentence of death row inmate Pervis Payne.
In a letter delivered on Friday, the TBCSL urges the Governor to change Payne’s death sentence to life in prison due to his intellectual disability. Payne was convicted of the 1987 murders of Charisse Christopher of Millington and her 2-year-old daughter Lacie. His execution is scheduled for December.
The letters says that Payne “has presented a mountain of evidence, including expert reports showing an IQ in the intellectually disabled range and significant neurocognitive impairments.” It goes on to state that “The accounts of those who have known him all of his life describe how Pervis Payne needed to be hand fed until age 5; how he could not handle basic household tasks such as laundry; and how, even as a young adult, he was unable to follow simple directions or retain information. No trial evidence, nor statements from District Attorney General (Amy) Weirich’s office have ever refuted any of these facts.”
Additionally, last month, a judge ruled that DNA evidence recovered from the scene, but never tested, can be tested. The TBCSL letter goes on to note that “despite the court’s instructions to General Weirich’s office to allow DNA testing; despite the fact that General Weirich’s office did not appeal the Judge’s ruling; General Weirich’s office continues a public campaign to undermine the value of DNA testing in this case.” So far, the testing has not taken place.
The letter closes by saying: “The District Attorney General office’s opposition to DNA testing in this racially charged case during these troubled times, raises serious concerns about the State of Tennessee’s commitment to seek justice for all, and to guarantee judicial equity for our citizens of color in Memphis, in Shelby County and in Tennessee.”