Shelby County DA opposing effort to test DNA evidence in 1987 double murder

Updated: Jul. 30, 2020 at 10:12 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Attorneys for a Mid-South man on death row hope new DNA testing could spare his life. The conviction is now several decades old, but District Attorney General Amy Weirich says the evidence already speaks for itself.

“If you are about to put somebody to death, why wouldn’t you want to get every bit of evidence that you could get,” said Robert Hutton, attorney and death penalty expert.

DA Amy Weirich explained in an afternoon news conference why she is asking a judge to deny a request for DNA testing in the Pervis Payne case by his federal defense attorney and the Innocence Project.

“There is no new evidence and they are merely trying to delay his scheduled execution,” said Weirich.

Payne’s attorney, Kelly Henry, who’s based in Nashville, came to Shelby County recently and found what appeared to be evidence that was never given to defense attorneys -- a bloody pillow, a bed spread and sheets. Weirich’s office checked it out and discovered the evidence was actually from a murder 10 years after the Millington murders in Memphis.

Pervis Payne was convicted in the stabbing murder of Charisse Christopher, her 2-year-old daughter Lacie, and the severe wounding of Christopher’s 3-year-old son, Nicholas.

Payne was at his girlfriend’s Millington apartment when he said he heard screams from the apartment across the hall. He said he found the victims and even pulled the knife out of Charisse and that’s how he got her blood all over him. He said he ran when he saw a white police officer showed up.

Weirich says the U.S. and Tennessee Supreme Courts denied Payne’s appeals saying there was overwhelming evidence against him.

“We still have all of that other evidence that proves his guilt. It would not matter if the DNA came back to other individuals,” said Weirich.

Weirich says because DNA could have come at any time in the apartment and from anywhere.

Payne is scheduled to be executed on Dec. 3. His attorney said in a statement, “The district attorney is wrong to oppose DNA testing in Pervis Payne’s case. She is wrong in both the facts and law.”

Death penalty expert Robert Hutton points out, “Death is such a certain result, if we have the opportunity to do testing and there’s any reasonable possibility that it could shine light on what happened, why wouldn’t we want to know?”

The DA’s request to deny the DNA testing will go to Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Paula Skahan. It is not clear when that ruling will happen.

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