MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Former death row inmate Pervis Payne could be eligible to go before the parole board and be freed in five years, his attorney said after a hearing in a Memphis court on Monday.
Payne’s death sentence in a 1987 murder case was vacated in November after he was determined to be intellectually disabled.
Judge Paula Skahan issued an ruling Monday morning stating that Payne’s two life sentences plus 30 years will be served concurrently. The ruling states that would make Payne eligible for parole after serving 39 years, which would be in 2027.
Payne’s attorney Kelley Henry said they are confident the judge’s ruling will stand on appeal.
Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich said she has asked the State Attorney General’s Office to appeal the ruling.
“We respectfully disagree with Judge Skahan’s interpretation of the new statute that removed the one-year statute of limitations on claims of intellectual disability. The statute does not authorize changing the original trial judge’s ruling that multiple sentences in the case should be consecutive,” Weirich said in a statement.
Payne, who has been imprisoned on charges from a 1987 stabbing in Millington, Tennessee, cried and hugged his attorney in the courtroom. He has maintained his innocence in the case.
The Supreme Court has ruled that inmates with an intellectual disability cannot be executed. Payne’s attorneys have claimed he was ineligible for the death penalty for this reason, and Weirich’s office last year agreed to drop opposition to an intellectual disability hearing.
Payne had been sentenced to death in the 1987 fatal stabbings of Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter in Millington, Tennessee.