MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Protesters gathered in Midtown to applaud a judge’s decision ordering DNA testing of a man convicted of murder 33 years ago.
Pervis Payne is on death row, scheduled to be executed on December 3, 2020. But now his defense attorney’s hope a new ruling could help set him free.
Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Paula Skahan ordered DNA testing of items from the crime scene to see if they have Purvis’s DNA.
About 15 protesters stood at the corner of Union and McClean with signs supporting DNA testing in the Pervis Payne cases and applauded the judge’s decision.
“We are here demanding justice for Pervis Payne, clemency even for Pervis Payne,” Rev. Andre E. Johnson of Gifts Life Ministries told FOX13.
Payne was convicted in the 1987 murder of a mother and daughter in Millington. DNA evidence from the crime scene has never been tested.
Payne maintained his innocence. His defense lawyer, along with the national legal group, The Innocence Project, argued that DNA testing of items from the crime would show he was not the killer.
Johnson told FOX13, "now we wait to see how that is going to be tested. When that is going to be tested. "
While the prosecutor did argue against the DNA testing in prior court hearings, the District Attorney’s office did release this statement.
“We will await the results of the testing that defense assures can be done quickly. We do however have concerns that touch DNA has been deposited on the items over the last 33 years since the murders happened,” wrote Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich.
Touch DNA means someone other than Payne’s DNA might be on the evidence.
Michael Working, President of the TN Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers told FOX13 “apparently the district attorney believes the Memphis Police Department has been incompetent in the way they have handled the evidence over the year. It is a very vague statement.”
“And the response back from us and the 150 cases that we already know where DNA has exonerated people off of death row is to test,” Johnson said.
After the hearing, the judge ordered the items to be tested to be sent by FedEx to a private crime lab that does both testings for prosecution and defense.
The results could be ready by November.
If Payne’s DNA is not on any of the evidence tested, one of his attorneys told FOX13 they will ask for a new trial.
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