Rally held to free death row inmate Pervis Payne

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Posted at 10:22 PM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-08 23:41:12-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — COVID restrictions have kept Tennessee’s death row execution chamber at Riverbend Prison quiet for more than a year, but there’s a growing movement to get one inmate off death row.

One group that gathered in Nashville today is part of a larger push questioning not just whether Pervis Payne is legally able to be on death row, but whether he actually committed the crime that put him there.

Vahisha Hasan was one of the group members, who says that Pervis Payne, convicted of killing a woman and her two-year-old daughter in Shelby County in 1987, should be freed from prison because he's innocent.

Shelby County prosecutors have said there was always substantial evidence to convict Payne and send him to death row, where he now sits. But backers of Payne point to what they say was a shoddy police investigation.

"Often what happens is we collect facts, but collecting facts doesn't always take you to the truth," said William Green, another in the group.

And this group, backed by the Innocence Project, says Payne is intellectually disabled and legally can't be put to death because of that. A judge will soon look at a recently completed psychological evaluation.

"The assessment itself just happened this past week, so we will have to wait and see the results from it," Hasan said.

Until then -- Hasan says she and her group will keep it up, as the decisions about what happens next most likely lie with a judge.