You helped to save two lives this year.
Pervis Payne spent 34 years on Tennessee’s death row, despite strong evidence of his innocence. Like far too many on death row, he is a Black man with intellectual disability. Individuals like Mr. Payne are not the “worst of the worst” as some people claim but are instead the most vulnerable.
On November 23, Mr. Payne tearfully embraced his attorney in a Memphis courtroom as his death sentence was removed. His fight to prove his innocence is not over, but for the first time in more than three decades, he is free from the threat of execution.
Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty has fought for years on behalf of Pervis Payne and that was only possible because of you and supporters like you. Please make a contribution today so that we can fight to save more lives and move Tennessee closer to fully repealing the death penalty.
But Mr. Payne is not the only person whose life you helped to protect. After more than 30 years on death row, Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman was also saved from execution when his death sentence was commuted to three life sentences on November 9. Mr. Abdur’Rahman lives with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues, the product of horrific childhood trauma and further trauma as an adult.
Like Mr. Payne, Mr. Abdur’Rahman is Black, and his trial was rife with racial bias, prosecutorial misconduct, and ineffective assistance of counsel. These cases show how Tennessee’s death penalty is fundamentally broken, targeting people with intellectual disability and mental illness, those without resources, and people of color.
TADP worked for decades to educate Tennesseans about Mr. Abdur’Rahman’s case. But many more people wait on Tennessee’s death row, with two execution dates now set for 2022. Your gift to TADP will fight for all of them.
TADP’s collaborative work with the Tennessee Disability Coalition, including our public education and advocacy efforts, moved the Tennessee General Assembly to pass bipartisan legislation preventing the execution of people with intellectual disability.
When Governor Lee signed that bill into law, Mr. Payne’s attorneys were able to request a new hearing on his intellectual disability. Before that hearing even happened, the Shelby County District Attorney saw the writing on the wall and conceded that Mr. Payne should be removed from death row.
Our goal is to end the death penalty—permanently. But while we work toward that goal, 46 people wait on our state’s death row to learn when they will be executed. Two people have been there for nearly 40 years. One man is 71 years old. He is scheduled for execution in Tennessee in April 2022, less than a month after his 72nd birthday.
Some claim this system is working properly. But if the system works, why does it take more than thirty years to fix a mistake? The truth is that Pervis Payne and Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman are free from death row today not because the system works, but despite the system’s best efforts to execute them.
Your gift provides us with the capacity to educate even more Tennesseans about the failures of the death penalty, to create effective strategies to move the public and lawmakers, to lift up the most impactful voices in the media, and to organize citizens to act for change.
(Photo of Pervis Payne embracing Attorney Kelley Henry at the Nov. 23rd hearing in which his death sentenced was removed)