Bill protecting disabled criminals from the death penalty is headed to Governor Lee’s desk

Bizar Male

NASHVILLE, Tenn — Tennessee lawmakers have passed legislation designed to prevent death row inmates with an intellectual disability from being executed. 

The GOP-supermajority House and Senate passed bill HB1062 by wide margins Monday and is now headed to Governor Bill Lee’s office. Advocates point to inmate Pervis Payne, who attorneys call intellectually disabled as he awaits an execution date. Payne was sentenced to death in the 1987 fatal stabbings of Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter. 

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing a person with an intellectual disability is unconstitutional. However, Tennessee’s Supreme Court later determined there was no procedure for death row inmates to reopen their cases to explore intellectual disability claims. 

Representative Hardaway said “I’m just happy we were able to work together with Mr. Payne’s attorney, Kelly Henry, and the National Bar Association to develop the language that we used in the Black Caucus bill and was later adopted into the Hawk bill. Now Mr. Payne will have the opportunity to receive what all Americans have the right to receive: due process.  So, we thank Representative Hawk and his partnership with the Black Caucus and we are happy that we were able to contribute in Mr. Payne’s quest for due process.”

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