State Supreme Court could set new execution date for Pervis Payne

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — A new execution date could soon be set for a Shelby County man who insists he’s not the man who killed two people decades ago.

A judge sentenced Pervis Payne to death for a Millington double murder committed in 1987. The State Supreme Court could issue a new execution date after a temporary halt issued by Gov. Bill Lee expired over the weekend.

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Tumultuous several months for Payne and his attorney, Kelley Henry, is more challenging, as he awaits a decision from the supreme court that may or may not come, according to Henry.

Henry said the high court could issue a new date or could decide against issuing a date.

“I believe with my whole heart and soul that he is innocent of this crime,” Henry said. “Every day, you’re just on pins and needles--is this the day you’re going to get the order?”

Payne was convicted of the grisly murders of Charrise Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter Lacie.

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His DNA was found on a knife at the scene, though Payne has said it got there because he’d gone to help after their real killer left.

DNA testing done just months ago shows DNA belonging to an unknown person was found on the knife, as well.

Along with an intellectual disability, Henry said shaky evidence should give him a new trial.

“Racism and intellectual disability, as well as hidden evidence, led to the conviction of an innocent man,” Henry said.

Now begins Henry’s next effort, which she said was gathering new evidence to present to Gov. Lee as an update to an already existing application for clemency.

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“I believe we’ve established his innocence as it stands, but we’re always looking for more,” Henry said.

The office of the Shelby County Attorney General has said it stands behind the conviction.

A spokesman for the office did not respond to a request for comment, but District Attorney Amy Weirich has issued a written statement in the past, most recently in January.

“… [N]othing in the DNA testing exonerates Pervis Payne. The evidence of Payne’s guilt was and still is overwhelming. The jurors declared so with their verdict in 1988. Countless appellate courts have said it since. …” the statement said.

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Legislation under consideration in the state general assembly would bar anyone in Tennessee, found to have an intellectual disability after conviction, from being executed.

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