Photo: Innocence Project
Pervis Payne, a Black man with an intellectual disability, has been on death row in Tennessee for 33 years for a crime he’s always said he did not commit. For more than three decades, Pervis and his family have lived with the constant threat of an execution hanging over their heads.
But Tuesday, the Shelby County Criminal Court formally set aside his death sentence — and Pervis Payne is now officially off death row.
“Thanksgiving for me will never be the same and I am sure I am speaking for my father as well,” said Rolanda Holman, Pervis’ sister. “This will always be a monumental week from now on because that’s how I feel today. Although he is not able to come to the table and have Thanksgiving with us, it gives me such a drive and reignites my fire even more to work toward that day when he will be able to sit at the table with our family and have a good slice of turkey … it’s amazing, so amazing.”
While we’re relieved that Pervis will no longer face execution, the fight is not yet over.
The district attorney is still asking the court to sentence Pervis to consecutive life sentences — this would effectively be life without the possibility of parole.
“This would be grossly unfair to Mr. Payne, who is innocent and should never have been subjected to the death penalty,” Kelley Henry of the Federal Public Defenders, Pervis’ attorney, said in a statement.
Even if the judge determines that Pervis should serve concurrent sentences, there is no guarantee that the parole board would ever grant him parole. And, because he was previously sentenced to death, he will not receive sentencing credit for his decades of model behavior while incarcerated. But we aren’t giving up hope and we’re not going to stop fighting.
Our work for Pervis continues, and we won’t stop until he is free.
Text FREEPERVIS to 97016 to help us bring him home.