Pervis Payne: Who He is and What You Need to Know About His Upcoming Hearing

Photo Source: The Innocence Project

Photo Source: The Innocence Project

Emma Breen, Writer

Imagine walking home at night, and as you are walking into your apartment building, you discover a neighbor and their children have been attacked. You panic and attempt to help them the best you can. In the distance, you hear police sirens, sending you further into distress. This is exactly what happened to Pervis Payne in 1987, and he is currently on Death Row, convicted for a crime he did not commit. 


Pervis Payne’s Story: 

In 1987, Pervis Payne, a mentally disabled black man, was walking home to his girlfriend’s apartment when he discovered that Charisse Christopher, his girlfriend’s neighbor, and her children were brutally attacked. Payne, panicked and confused, tried his best to help them. The police eventually arrived, and he was overcome with fear that he would be mistaken for the attacker. Later that day, he was arrested and charged for the murder of Charisse and Lacie, Charisse’s daughter. He was sentenced to death and has been on Death Row ever since. 

His execution date was supposed to be early April of 2021, but was pushed back by the Supreme Court. Payne had no motive, nor previous criminal record, but the odds were still against him. The prosecution used racial stereotypes to portray him as a hypersexual drug user who attacked Charisse. The prosecution also used the same racial profiling that was used against Emmet Till and the Scottsborough Boys.  

Since Pervis Payne has a mental disability, it is technically unconstitutional to sentence him to death, yet he was still given a death sentence. Even if he did commit the crime, it would still be conventionally unconstitutional to execute him due to his mental disability. The corruption and blatant systemic racism of the judicial system are appalling. 

A crucial piece of evidence, in this case, was that there were other suspects. Charisse’s ex-husband was the main suspect and there’s plausibility to the suspicion. Charisse’s ex-husband was extremely abusive, which gives him a motive, and he was at an extremely low-security jail, where suspects had been known to walk out of and return to later in the day. 

Pervis Payne has had the same story and alibi for 30+ years. His story has never changed, the details are always the same, which is also proving he is innocent, but all of these things have been ignored due to his race.


The Upcoming Trial and What You Can Do:

The systemic racism and prejudice towards people of color in America are heartbreaking, and with his upcoming hearing, there are steps we as Americans can do to hopefully overturn his guilty verdict. 

The re-evaluation of the verdict is happening on December 13’th of this year, and Payne’s legal team is hard at work to give him the justice he deserves. There is a petition circulating that has over 750,000 signatures. Feel free to increase this number by signing here

It is so important that this case gets as much traction from the media as possible, as the more people that know his story the better. Getting people invested in bringing Pervis the justice he deserves is what we owe to him, especially after our judicial system has failed him so badly. The systemic racism in this country has always been a “touchy” subject to discuss, but it is so important that we not only discuss it but actively take action to fix all of the damage that has been done. We cannot erase everything that happened in the past, but we can change our approach to dealing with racism. 

Pervis Payne may have been wronged by the American justice system, but it is now our responsibility to make it right. I encourage you to read the sources below and to sign the petition because every little thing helps. Pervis Payne is one of many; we owe it to not only him but every person of color that has been a victim of systemic racism to take action. Pervis Payne has been on death row for 34 years and his story has not once changed; he is innocent, and it is time for him to be given the redress he deserves. 



Sources to Further Educate Yourself: 

The Innocence Project-



Petition to Free Pervis Payne-