Justice for Pervis Payne

pervis payne

Who is Pervis Payne?

Pervis Payne was arrested in 1987 and convicted in 1988 for the murder of Charisse Christopher and her child. Since then, he has been on death row in Tennessee.

Payne, who lives with an intellectual disability, has stood by his innocence for 33 years. In June of 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that executing people with intellectual disabilities is a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Payne was given a temporary reprieve due to COVID-19 until April 9th, 2021.

DNA Testing

Payne has been incarcerated for over 30 years.

However, only recently was DNA testing performed on objects taken from the crime scene. The 100+ page report found two male DNA samples. One is believed to belong to Payne, and the other to an unidentified male.

Payne’s DNA was not found on the blade of the murder weapon. He is a possible contributor to DNA found on the hilt, which would support his testimony where he claimed that he aided the victim by attempting to remove the knife from her throat.

Case Evidence

Some evidence from the original case have gone missing. Further, there are no pictures of some pieces of evidence. According to the defense team, the detective at the time did not realize that there was no film in the camera. Payne’s defense team believes that some of these items, if DNA tested, would have proved Payne’s innocence.

A pair of folded glasses were also found at the scene, but they belonged to neither Payne nor the victims. Police stated that he had a piece of paper with traces of cocaine on it, but they never drug-tested him, even though Payne’s family consented.

Crime Scene

Payne stated that he was at the scene of the crime. He heard cries for help through the door, and he got blood on his clothes in the process of trying to help the victims.

Payne has no suspected motive for committing this crime. There was no evidence then or now that Payne was on drugs, and he had no prior criminal record.

Shelby County

The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office opposed DNA testing from the beginning. Previous cases have also been denied DNA testing my the DA’s office, resulting in executions.

Shelby County is among the 25 counties with the most recorded lynchings between 1877 and 1950 in the United States. During Payne’s trial, the prosecution repeatedly referred the victim’s “white skin,” while portraying Payne as a drug-using, aggressive, hypersexual Black man

Payne’s Disability

Payne lives with an intellectual disability, meaning that it is unconstitutional to execute him.

There is no way for Payne to present his intellectual disability claim in Tennessee, although legislation is currently being considered in the state. Because of his disability, Payne was unable to fully participate in his legal defense. Since his trial, doctors confirmed that Payne has an intellectual disability.


The ex-husband of the victim had a history of abusive behavior during their marriage. During the investigation, he was not considered a suspect because he was serving a sentence for aggravated assault at Fort Pillow State Penitentiary. However, an employee of the prison has stated that minimum security inmates could leave the prison during the day.

Additionally, a man was seen running from the crime scene shortly before Payne found the victim in her apartment. Both Payne and another witness saw this man.

What can you do?

Call Script

“My name is [insert name] from [insert location]. I am calling on behalf of Pervis Payne, who has been on death row in Tennessee for over 30 years. He is scheduled to be executed on April 9th, this coming Friday. DNA testing supports Payne’s claim that he was, in fact, not guilty of the murder that he is convicted of. He had no motive for committing the crime, no criminal record, and no history of drug abuse. Above all, he lives with an intellectual disability, which makes his execution unlawful according to the 8th Amendment and a 2002 Supreme Court Ruling. I am asking that you halt his execution and give this man the justice he deserves. Thank you.”

*No email script is provided because scripted emails are usually marked as spam by government officials. To increase the likelihood that your email will be read, please do not use a script.

Contact these people:

Bill Lee, Tennessee Governor:
(615) 741-2001
[email protected]
→ Contact form on the governor’s website

Amy Weirich, District Attorney:
(901) 222-1300
[email protected]

The White House:
(202) 456-1414
→ A person will pick up, not an answering machine
→ Contact form on the White House’s website

The Attorney General, Department of Justice:
(202) 353-1555
→ Choose 9 to leave a voicemail
→ Contact form on the DoJ’s website

Lee Harris, Shelby County Mayor:
(901) 222-2000
[email protected]

Shelby County Attorney’s Office:
(901) 222-2100

Marlinee Clark Iverson, County Attorney:
[email protected]

Scott Blount, Assistant County Attorney:
[email protected]

Megan Smith, Deputy County Attorney:
(901) 222-1300
[email protected]


Join Pervis Payne’s fight for justice:
The Innocence Project
To sign this petition, you must be a US resident.

Take Pervis Payne off of death row:
You do not need to be a US resident to sign this!
*Do NOT donate to change.org. The money will not go to Payne or his cause; it goes directly to change.org as profit*

Organizations to Donate to

The Innocence Project:

Death Penalty Action:

Equal Justice USA:


Amnesty International:

More Resources for Pervis Payne

Pervis Payne needs our help:

Abolish the Death Penalty:

8 Things You Need to Know About Pervis Payne Who Is Facing Execution:

Pervis Payne remains on death row despite DNA evidence, new date for execution to be set April 9:

Visit more Justice pages here.