As a result, Payne now faces two life sentences, though it remains to be decided whether he will serve them concurrently or consecutively.
“It was really just an astounding moment for all of us,” she said.
Payne maintains he is innocent of the 1987 murders of 28-year-old Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter, who were fatally stabbed in an attack at their apartment in Millington, a Memphis suburb. Payne received two death sentences after being convicted on two counts of first-degree murder, as well as assault with intent to commit first-degree murder of Christopher’s 3-year-old son, who survived the attack.
Payne has spent years attempting to establish his claim of intellectual disability as a reason he should not be executed, Henry said.
Shelby County Judge Paula Skahan wrote in an order filed Tuesday that Payne’s petition “is supported by two expert opinions concluding that Petitioner is intellectually disabled pursuant to Tennessee law as well as the decisions of the United States Supreme Court.”
“Although he is not able to come to the table and have Thanksgiving with us,” she said, “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.”
As for the victim’s family, the DA’s office said it met with them this month “to explain the current reality with which we are now faced.”
“The family was not happy, but they understand,” the statement said. “We can’t change the facts and we can’t change the law.”
A resentencing hearing has been scheduled for December 13, when the judge is expected to decide whether Payne should serve the two life sentences concurrently, like his attorneys have asked, or consecutively, at the DA’s request.
According to WMC, Henry said after Tuesday’s hearing that a concurrent sentence would mean Payne would eligible for parole in about six years.
While Payne, his family and supporters are grateful for this week’s ruling, they will not rest until he is exonerated, Henry told CNN.
Henry told CNN that Payne was visiting his girlfriend across the hall from the victims when he discovered them. Payne, 20 at the time, tried to help the victims, who were White, she said, but realized that as a Black man he would be suspected of the crime, and he ran from the scene.
While the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office acknowledged Payne could not be executed, it rejected his innocence claims, saying evidence of his guilt “has never changed or weakened.”
DNA testing has failed to exonerate Payne, and Payne’s conviction has been reviewed multiple times by appeals courts at both the state and federal levels, the statement said.
“The Tennessee Supreme Court called Payne’s self-serving testimony ‘unbelievable and contrary to human conduct and experience,'” the statement said. “The U.S. Supreme Court called the evidence against Payne ‘overwhelming and relatively uncontroverted.'”
Payne’s family, however, remains hopeful, Henry said.
“His sister and father are people of deep faith, as is Pervis, and they believe Pervis is coming home soon,” Henry said. “They believe this was God’s will, and that God is acting through his case.”
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