Bend the Arc leaders in Memphis are asking supporters across the country to join their campaign to stop the unjust execution of Pervis Payne. Add your name.
As a Jewish Tennessean, I cannot be silent and let my state murder a man in my name.
Pervis Payne has been on death row in Tennessee for over 30 years, despite living with an intellectual disability and without key evidence from his case being tested for DNA. Pervis has maintained his innocence throughout this process — and we know that people living with an intellectual disability are at special risk for wrongful conviction.
Pervis has a temporary reprieve from execution, but it expires on April 9 — less than two weeks from now. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has the power to commute Pervis’ sentence, but we need massive public pressure from all of us to make that happen.
We’re proud to work on this campaign with groups like Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action & Hope (MICAH), and the Tennessee Poor People's Campaign.
Here in Memphis, I’ve been organizing with Bend the Arc leaders and local partners to bring attention to Pervis’ case. In January, we organized a virtual letter-writing event and wrote to our representatives demanding the commutation of his sentence.
Now, we’re working closely with Tennessee faith leaders, organizers, and people across the state and country to fight for Pervis’ freedom. At the core of Pervis Payne’s story are the intersecting legacies of anti-Black racism, ableism, and injustice — ones that as Jews and people of faith, we have a duty to rise up against.
Pervis has always maintained his innocence, but because of his disability, he wasn’t able to fully participate in his defense. The Supreme Court of the United States and the Tennessee Supreme Court have both held that executing people with intellectual disabilities is unconstitutional — yet Pervis remains on death row.
Some good news: Tennessee legislators are currently considering a bill that could protect Pervis and others with intellectual disabilities from execution. But we need to take action to stop his execution right now.
With your help, we can make sure all eyes are on Tennessee and Governor Lee as we approach April 9 — the deadline to re-evaluate Pervis’s case.
Thank you so much for your support. As Bend the Arc leaders, volunteers, and supporters, we will keep fighting for justice for Pervis, for Black liberation, for disability justice, and for an end to our cruel system of prisons, policing, and capital punishment.
Alison and the Bend the Arc: Jewish Action Memphis team
The Innocence Project, Pervis Payne: What You Need to Know About His Case