MEMPHIS, Tenn.– A judge heard testimony from witnesses about former death row inmate Pervis Payne’s character during his resentencing hearing on Monday.

Pervis Payne at his murder trial in 1987 (WREG file)

Payne was once facing death row but he was recently taken off after it was deemed he was intellectually disabled. He was convicted of murdering a Millington woman and her 2-year-old daughter more than 30 years ago but has maintained his innocence.

The judge emphasized that she is not considering innocence in this case but depending on how Payne is resentenced, he could be eligible for parole in six years. A parole board would be the body to grant his parole.

Family members of the victims were also in the courtroom, which had at times some emotional moments. 

Support for Pervis Payne outside of the criminal justice center Monday continued inside a courtroom as he entered with handshakes and hugs with his attorneys.

Judge Paula Skahan listened as person after person took the stand to talk about Payne’s character, describing him as a loyal friend and a giver who was always helping people.

His attorney Kelley Henry said she planned to call 19 witnesses in 3 categories—family, friends and faith, community volunteers and prison professionals.

Payne’s younger sister Rolanda Holman was the first to speak about her brother. She talked about their religious upbringing and some of Payne’s limitations. 

“You know we had little small things like lunch and meat that we could fix for ourselves but as far as cooking he was not allowed to go in the kitchen and cook anything,” she said.

Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter, Lacie

There were difficult moments in the courtroom. 

Loved ones of victims Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter, Lacie, looked down when a video of the crime scene was shown. The video showed blood smeared around a room and a knife at the feet of the little girl. 

Payne and his legal team have said Payne didn’t kill the mother and daughter but instead was actually trying to help them. 

Now that it has been determined Payne has an intellectual disability and cannot be executed—the judge must decide if his sentence is served concurrently—at the same time. Or consecutively—one after another. 

If it’s concurrently, he would be eligible for parole in 6 years. If it’s consecutively he won’t be eligible until he is 85-years-old. Payne is currently in his 50s. 

A total of 15 witnesses were called during the hearing and we will hear from 4 more witnesses on Tuesday.