Pervis Payne’s death penalty reversed, replaced with two life sentences

Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 4:23 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - After being on death row for more than 30 years, Pervis Payne’s sentence has been removed.

The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday that a petition was filed to remove Payne from the death penalty.

Payne was convicted of the murder of a Millington mother and her child in 1987.

DNA tests and defense arguments have failed to exonerate him.

A petition was filed with the court in May, presenting an intellectual disability claim in hopes of stopping his execution. In April, Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill that would prevent death row inmates with an intellectual disability from being executed.

As of October, efforts to overturn Payne’s death row sentence were still underway.

According to the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, currently pending before the criminal court is Payne’s defense argument that he is intellectually disabled and under law, cannot be executed. A state expert examined Payne and available records and could not say Payne’s intellectual functioning is outside the range for intellectual disability.

Therefore, Payne’s death row sentence was removed and replaced with two consecutive life sentences.

Payne’s attorney, Kelley Henry, released the following statement after the decision was made Thursday:

“As a person with intellectual disability, Pervis Payne cannot be executed under our Constitution. We are grateful to the Tennessee legislature, under Rep. G.A. Hardaway’s leadership, for passing a new law to allow Mr. Payne to present evidence of his intellectual disability in court, and to Governor Lee for signing the bill into law. The Shelby County District Attorney was right to drop its request for a hearing on Mr. Payne’s intellectual disability. The D.A.’s concession will avoid years of needless litigation.

“We look forward to Mr. Payne’s resentencing hearing. This is some measure of justice for Mr. Payne and his family, but our fight for full exoneration of this innocent man will continue.”

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