TOP News

Crime: Who Is Pervis Payne? Tennessee Inmate Freed From Death Row Due to Intellectual Disability

Florist Settles With Same-Sex Couple After Wedding Job Refused, Wishes Them 'Very Best'

  Florist Settles With Same-Sex Couple After Wedding Job Refused, Wishes Them 'Very Best' Barronelle Stutzman settled with Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed eight years after she refused a wedding job.Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene's Flowers announced that she had paid $5,000 to Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed. She also wished them "the very best" moving forward. Ingersoll had been a customer of Stutzman's for almost a decade before she refused to make floral arrangements for his and Freed's wedding.

Pervis Payne hugs his attorney Kelley Henry in the courtroom on November 23, 2021. © Laramie Renae for the Innocence Project Pervis Payne hugs his attorney Kelley Henry in the courtroom on November 23, 2021.

Pervis Payne has been freed from death row after a Tennessee judge declared he is intellectually disabled.

Payne, 54, was sentenced to death for the 1987 killing of Charisse Christopher, 28, and her 2-year-old daughter Lacie Jo. Christopher's 3-year-old son Nicholas was also stabbed, but survived.

But Payne has maintained his innocence for over three decades. He told police he had been at the apartment building in Millington to meet his girlfriend when he came across the victims and tried to help them. He said he panicked and fled when the police showed up.

Crime against disabled people is rising and advocates say more needs to be done

  Crime against disabled people is rising and advocates say more needs to be done The victimization rate has been increasing since 2015, according to statistics. The data shows that from 2017-2019 disabled people accounted for 26% of nonfatal violent crimes, even though they make up only 12% of the population and are victims of violence at almost four times the rate of non-disabled people.

On Tuesday, Payne's two death sentences were vacated by Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Paula Skahan.

Payne embraced his attorney, Kelley Henry, and started to break down in tears shortly after entering the courtroom. "He just said thank you over and over again," Henry told the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

The judge's order came after Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich announced last week that the state will no longer pursue its plans to execute Payne.

Weirich said an expert hired by the state "could not say that Payne's intellectual functioning is outside the range for intellectual disability."

"While the evidence of Payne's guilt has never changed or weakened, the laws regarding alleged intellectual disability as it relates to the death penalty have changed," she said.

Tennessee judge vacates 2 death sentences for inmate

  Tennessee judge vacates 2 death sentences for inmate MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Moments before a Tennessee judge freed him from death row, Pervis Payne walked into a courtroom, hugged his lawyer and wept. Payne, who was sentenced to death in the 1987 killings of a mother and daughter, held attorney Kelley Henry tightly and thanked her for arguing that he is intellectually disabled and cannot be executed under a relatively new Tennessee law. “He just hugged me and just said ‘thank you,’ over and over and over again,” Henry told reporters after a hearing Tuesday in a Memphis courtroom. “I told him it was alright, 'I got you.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executions of the intellectually disabled were unconstitutional in 2002, finding they violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

But until Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill earlier in 2021 making retroactive the state's law prohibiting the execution of the intellectually disabled, the state had no procedural mechanism for inmates to reopen their case to press a claim of intellectual disability.

A day after the law was enacted, Payne's attorneys filed a petition to stop his execution. The petition included IQ test results, educational records and expert findings, along with declarations from family members, teachers, employers and others who have known Payne.

Weirich's office is now pushing for Payne to be re-sentenced to serve two life sentences consecutively. "This would be grossly unfair to Mr. Payne, who is innocent and should never have been subjected to the death penalty," Henry said.

Inmate's 2 Death Sentences Vacated After Judge Declares Him Intellectually Disabled

  Inmate's 2 Death Sentences Vacated After Judge Declares Him Intellectually Disabled Pervis Payne was convicted of fatally stabbing Charisse Christopher and Lacie Jo, her 2-year-old daughter, in Millington, Tennessee, a Memphis suburb. Nicholas, Christopher's son, who was 3 at the time, was also stabbed but survived. Payne, who is Black, has always maintained his innocence. He told police he was on his way to meet his girlfriend at Christopher's apartment building when he heard Christopher and her children, who were white, and attempted to help them. When he saw a white police officer, he panicked and ran away, he said.

Skahan will decide whether the sentences should run consecutively or concurrently at a later date.

Payne's case attracted renewed attention after it was taken on by the Innocence Project, which says it bears all the hallmarks of a wrongful conviction due to crucial missing evidence and racial bias. Payne is Black and Christopher and the victims were white.

A petition set up by the nonprofit continues to urge people to join Payne's "fight for justice."

"Pervis Payne, who has an intellectual disability and a strong innocence claim, has been removed from death row and continues to fight for freedom," the petition, which has amassed more than 760,000 signatures, says.

Payne's attorneys have argued that police focused almost exclusively on him as a suspect, even though he had no prior criminal history and nothing in his background suggested he was capable of committing such a crime.

Skahan ruled to allow DNA testing in Payne's case for the first time in 2020.

Payne's DNA was found on the hilt of the knife used in the killings, which his attorneys said match his trial testimony that he cut himself while handling the knife as he tried to help the victims. His DNA was not found on the knife's handle, but partial DNA evidence from an unknown man was.

Tennessee inmate freed from death row due to intellectual disability

  Tennessee inmate freed from death row due to intellectual disability A Tennessee man behind bars for murdering a mother and daughter was freed from death row after a judge agreed he was mentally disabled. © Adrian Sainz Pervis Payne, center, facing camera, hugs lawyer Kelley Henry before a court hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. Pervis Payne was convicted and ordered to be the executed for stabbing 28-year-old Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter Lacie Jo in the Memphis suburb of Millington more than 30 years ago. Christopher’s 3-year-old son Nicholas was also stabbed, but he went on to survive the attack.

However, there was not enough DNA material to enter it into a national FBI database and attempt to match it to someone else.

Payne's attorneys also said that key pieces of evidence, including scrapings from Christopher's fingernails that were collected from the crime scene, could not be located for testing.

Payne had been scheduled for execution in December 2020, but Lee granted him a temporary reprieve due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That reprieve expired in April, but the state Supreme Court had not set a new execution date.

The last inmate executed by the state of Tennessee was Nicholas Sutton in February 2020.

Related Articles

  • Petitions Calling for Pervis Payne to Be Taken Off Death Row Amass Over a Million Signatures
  • Inmate's 2 Death Sentences Vacated After Judge Declares Him Intellectually Disabled
  • Pervis Payne's Attorneys Ask to Stop His Execution Over Intellectual Disability
  • Tennessee Death Row Inmate Seeks DNA Testing, Says It Will Prove Innocence

Start your unlimited Newsweek trial

Mississippi Death Row Inmate Asks State to Execute Him After '25-Year Wait for Justice' .
"I ask to see that my execution should be carried out forthwith," said Grayson in a letter to the state Supreme Court justices filed Friday with the court. In August 1997, he was convicted of capital murder for stabbing 78-year-old Minnie Smith while burglarizing her home in George County in May 1996, The Associated Press reported. Grayson wrote in his letter that he would give up all his appeals."Sirs & Ma'ms I drop my appeals and thank the courts of our nation for doing its burdensome duty," Grayson wrote.

See also