A virtual community forum on “Race, Wrongful Conviction, and the Death Penalty” will be held at 4 p.m., Sunday, October 25.
A focus will be on the planned execution of Pervis Payne, scheduled for December 3 in Nashville. He is a Black man with an intellectual disability and son of a highly respected pastor, a press release said.
The speakers will be Rolanda Holman, Payne’s sister, who will describe the circumstances surrounding his case and the push for DNA testing and commutation of his sentence; Sabrina Butler Smith, exoneree from Mississippi’s death row and Memphis resident, who will connect issues from her case to those in Payne’s case and the broader realities of racial injustice inherent in the death penalty; and the Reverend Stacy Rector, executive director of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, who will reflect on current issues raised by the death penalty, particularly as they relate to race and wrongful conviction, the press release said.
According to Rector, “Pervis Payne’s case has all the ingredients for a wrongful conviction and death sentence. He is a Black man with intellectual disability who was accused of murdering a white woman; the prosecution played upon racial fears and stereotypes; and for years, the state blocked DNA testing of evidence that could help prove Payne’s innocence. Governor Lee should grant clemency on the grounds that he is likely an innocent man, and that as a person with an intellectual disability, his execution would be unconstitutional.”
According to the Equal Justice Initiative, the death penalty is disproportionately reserved for those who are Black, poor, or diagnosed with a mental illness. From 2007 to 2017, eight of the nine new death sentences in Tennessee were given to Black defendants, the press release said.
In 2012, EJI examined jury selection procedures in eight Southern states, including Tennessee. It found shocking evidence of racial discrimination in each state, including in counties where prosecutors excluded nearly 80 percent of Blacks qualified for jury service and in majority Black counties where defendants were tried by all-white juries, the press release said. EJI also identified prosecutors who were trained to exclude people from juries based on their race.
If you would like to attend the forum, send an email to [email protected] to get the Zoom link.
This press release was submitted by a subscriber or advertiser to Oak Ridge Today.