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Bill would allow death row inmates to seek mental evaluation

Jail Cell
Posted at 10:54 PM, Apr 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-09 00:02:14-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The execution chamber at Riverbend Prison has remained quiet for more than a year – with the governor delaying executions due to COVID-19.

But on Friday, the governor's execution delay for one death row inmate, Pervis Payne, will expire.

But now a proposed law may give Payne a chance to avoid the execution chamber.

The supreme court has said no intellectually disabled person can be sentenced to death.

But Payne, who his attorneys say has an intellectual disability, has been barred from asking a court to judge his mental competency, because he's already been sentenced.

"The way the current statute reads, they were not able to get into court to present their claim for intellectual disability," said Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis).

Hardway says his bill would change that, allowing a judge to declare Payne intellectually disabled, and unfit for execution.

Hardaway says he's been in talks with the Attorney General's office, and the Governor's office.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that everyone is going to work with us as we move the legislation through to completion," Hardaway said.

Meanwhile, attorneys for Payne, convicted of killing a woman and her two-year-old daughter, maintain his innocence, asking the Governor to stop any future execution.