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Civil Rights

Pervis Payne Cannot Be Executed Due to Intellectual Disability

— December 9, 2021

The Shelby County District Attorney conceded that Pervis Payne is a person with intellectual disability.

In May of this year, following Governor Lee’s signing of overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation to patch a hole in Tennessee law that prevented people with intellectual disability from presenting the claim that their execution was barred by the Tennessee and U.S. Constitutions, attorneys for Pervis Payne filed a petition under the new procedure in Shelby County Criminal Court.

The petition states that Mr. Payne, as a person with an undisputed diagnosis of intellectual disability, is categorically barred from execution. The State has never denied or challenged that Mr. Payne is a person with intellectual disability and neurocognitive impairment. As the petition states: “Pervis Payne is indisputably intellectually disabled. Mr. Payne meets all three Atkins requirements, as well as those of the Tennessee statute. He has significantly subaverage intellectual functioning, significant adaptive deficits in each domain, and his disability manifested prior to age 18.” (p. 5)

There is further good news in Mr. Payne’s pursuit of freedom.

Image by Wannapik Studios.
Image by Wannapik Studios.

Kelley Henry, Pervis Payne’s Attorney, made the following statement:

“As a person with intellectual disability, Pervis Payne cannot be executed under our Constitution. We are grateful to the Tennessee legislature, under Rep. G.A. Hardaway’s leadership, for passing a new law to allow Mr. Payne to present evidence of his intellectual disability in court, and to Governor Lee for signing the bill into law. The Shelby County District Attorney was right to drop its request for a hearing on Mr. Payne’s intellectual disability. The D.A.’s concession will avoid years of needless litigation.

“We look forward to Mr. Payne’s resentencing hearing. This is some measure of justice for Mr. Payne and his family, but our fight for full exoneration of this innocent man will continue.”

Background on Pervis Payne’s innocence case appears here and

His resentencing hearing is December 13, 2021.

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