MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Inmate Pervis Payne was back in a Memphis criminal courtroom Friday after his lawyers filed a motion to have the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office removed from their client’s case.
The request was made due to what Payne’s attorneys call a “conflict of interest” by one of the DA’s prosecutors, specifically naming Shelby County Assistant District Attorney Steve Jones.
“Your Honor, I reluctantly, but ethically, brought this motion to your Honor’s attention after learning that Mr. Jones had been a capital case attorney, working on cases in the Western Division, apparently during the time frame in which Mr. Payne’s case was pending in post-conviction before Judge Weinman of this court,” said Payne’s attorney Kelley Henry.
Henry argued that during those years, Jones provided legal guidance regarding death penalty matters to judges. Henry says she wasn’t aware of Jones position earlier, saying it amounts to conflict of interest.
“And when that staff attorney then becomes a prosecutor in a case, that creates an appearance of impropriety and calls into question the integrity of the entire process,” Henry said.
Jones, who was also present, responded to the motion, saying he did not work on the Payne case as a capital case attorney and Henry knew that.
“The simple fact of the matter is I did not work on Mr. Payne’s case, as I said in my response, prior to becoming Assistant District Attorney,” Jones said. “I’d be happy to answer any questions your Honor says about that, but I hadn’t worked on the case prior to that.”
Judge Skahan did not immediately rule on the motion. Pervis Payne’s next court appearance is set for December 13.