Death row inmate appears in court as attorney calls state record request a ‘fishing expedition’


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Death row inmate Pervis Payne appeared inside a Tennessee courtroom wearing plain clothes for the first time since 2007 Friday.

Before his hearing, a crowd of supporters and family gathered outside the courthouse for a prayer vigil.

“We have an overwhelming love from the community that is standing with us and behind us and we didn’t have that before,” Payne’s sister Rolanda Holman said.

She said she picked out the suit her brother wore in court.

“It felt amazing for me to be able to see him in this day and time and outside of those prison whites. I looked at him and said, ‘Boy you look dapper,’” she said.

Both Payne’s legal team and officials representing the Tennessee Attorney General were there to argue a motion from the state asking for an expert to evaluate Payne and to review records to prepare his intellectual disability hearing.

Payne’s attorney, federal public defender Shelley Henry, called the record request a “fishing expedition” and said the state already has access to a lot of those files, like his GED records and him being declared mentally unfit in the past. She said other files the state requested are private.

“I’ve looked at all of the statutes about privacy that specifically prohibit the disclosure of some of the records they’re asking for, both federal HIPAA law and state HIPAA law,” Henry said.

In response, an attorney for the state agreed to narrow the document request.

The question remaining pertains to the expert evaluation and whether it will be recorded on camera.

Payne’s attorney called an expert to testify why it should be.

“It’s very unobtrusive,” said Dr. Stephen Greenspan, a psychology expert from California.

The judge said she’d rule on the video request before their next court date. Both sides are due back in court for a status check-in on Aug. 6. Ultimately, the evaluation must get done by Dec. 14.

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