Proposed TN bill could save life of Millington man on death row

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – – A new bill filed by Tennessee lawmakers could save the life of a Millington man on death row. 53-year-old Pervis Payne says he has an intellectual disability, which would mean he can’t be executed. However, currently, there’s no procedure for him to make his claim in a Tennessee court.


“The gap exists,” State Rep. G.A. Hardaway said, “The deficit in law is real.”

Now, the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators has filed a bill that would allow Payne to make his claim by aligning the state’s definition of intellectual disability with the US Supreme Court’s.


“But there’s a problem,” Payne’s attorney Kelley Henry said, “The bill can’t be considered until January and Mr. Payne’s execution is scheduled for December 3rd.”

That’s why Payne’s lawyers have asked Governor Bill Lee for clemency while the bill makes its way through the legislature.

“This bill stands to save the life of Pervis Payne,” Henry said.


Payne was convicted of fatally stabbing Charisse Christopher and her two-year-old daughter at their Millington apartment in 1987 but his legal team believes new DNA evidence could exonerate him. A judge recently signed an order for numerous items to be tested, including the murder weapon, bloody curtains and a pair of glasses found at the scene.

“We believe Mr. Payne is innocent,” Henry said.

His cause is championed by many and his sister, Rolanda Holman, is grateful for the support.


“It’s like people say it takes a village to raise a child, I feel it’s going to take a village for us to turn the hand of justice in the right direction,” Holman said.

It’s unclear when those DNA results will come back or if Governor Lee will grant clemency. As for the legislation, the lawmakers behind it believe they will get bipartisan support for the bill.


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