Judge dismisses DNA petition in Pervis Payne case

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A judge has dismissed the DNA petition in the death row inmate Pervis Payne murder case.

Payne was convicted of killing a Millington mother and her two-year-old in 1987.

In the 11-page ruling, a judge dismissed a petition for post-conviction DNA analysis in Payne because the findings were “not favorable to Mr. Payne”

The ruling states: “had these DNA testing results been available at trial, such results would not have been sufficient to undermine confidence in the verdict and sentence returned by the jury considering the other evidence presented at trial”

But Payne’s attorneys don’t consider this a setback.

“Our position is that it shows his DNA is found where he said it should have been found and it’s not found on the items of evidence that you would expect it to be found on if he was in fact the perpetrator,” said Kelley Henry, supervisory assistant federal public defender.

RELATED: Gov. Bill Lee grants death row inmate temporary reprieve

Payne’s DNA was found on multiple items at the crime scene, including a paper towel bundle and a washcloth.

But Henry said it wasn’t found on a handle of the murder weapon. This DNA belongs to an unknown male. But she said they are disappointed the state couldn’t find the victim’s fingernail clippings from the crime.

“Without the fingernail scrapings, we’re unable to compare the male DNA that we have found on the handle of the murder weapon but having the opportunity to do the testing and prove that Pervis is eliminated from the DNA found on the handle of the murder is incredibly important evidence for us moving forward,” said Henry.

In a written statement, Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich said “the evidence of Payne’s guilt was and still is overwhelming.”

She continued by adding “partial unidentified DNA on the handle of the murder weapon is a false mystery. It could have come from anyone at any time – before or after the murders.”

Last year Governor Bill Lee postponed Payne’s execution and granted him reprieve from execution until April 9, 2021, but that’s not Payne’s new execution date.

His attorney said the Tennessee Supreme Court will set the new date and because of the ongoing pandemic, it’s unclear how quickly this will happen.