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Payne v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

October 30, 2014


Session February 5, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. P9594 J. Robert Carter, Jr., Judge

Christopher Minton, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Pervis Tyrone Payne.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Deshea Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General; and Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Alan E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which John Everett Williams, J., joined. Camille R. McMullen, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.



In 1988, the Petitioner, Pervis Tyrone Payne, was convicted of two counts of first degree murder and one count of assault with intent to commit first degree murder. He was sentenced to death for the first degree murder convictions and thirty years for the assault conviction. The Petitioner's convictions and sentences were affirmed by the Tennessee Supreme Court on direct appeal. See State v. Payne, 791 S.W.2d 10 (Tenn. 1990), aff'd by, 501 U.S. 808 (1991). The Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis claiming that he is intellectually disabled and, therefore, ineligible for the death penalty. He also sought relief pursuant to the intellectual disability provisions in Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-203. The trial court denied the petition, and the Petitioner appealed.


The evidence presented at trial was summarized by the Tennessee Supreme Court on direct appeal as follows:

Charisse Christopher was 28 years old, divorced, and lived in Hiwassee Apartments, in Millington, Tennessee, with her two children, three and one-half year old Nicholas and two and one-half year old Lacie. The building in which she lived contained four units, two downstairs and two upstairs. The resident manager, Nancy Wilson, lived in the downstairs unit immediately below the Christophers. Defendant's girlfriend, Bobbie Thomas, lived in the other upstairs unit. The inside entrance doors of the Christopher and Thomas apartments were separated by a narrow hallway. Each of the upstairs apartments had back doors in the kitchen that led to an open porch overlooking the back yard. In the center of the porch was a metal stairway leading to the ground. There was also an inside stairway leading to the ground floor hallway and front entrance to the four-unit building.
Bobbie Thomas had spent the week visiting her mother in Arkansas but was expected to return on Saturday, 27 June 1987, and she and Defendant had planned to spend the weekend together. Prior to 3:00 p.m. on that date, Defendant had visited the Thomas apartment several times and found no one at home. On one visit he left his overnight bag, containing clothing, etc., for his weekend stay, in the hallway, near the entrance to the Thomas apartment. With the bag were three cans of Colt 45 malt liquor.
Nancy Wilson was resting in her apartment when she first heard screaming, yelling and running in the Christopher apartment above her. She heard a door banging open and shut and Charisse screaming, "get out, get out." She said it wasn't as though she was telling the intruder to get out, it was like "children, get out." The commotion began about 3:10 p.m., subsided momentarily, then began again and became "terribly loud, horribly loud." She went to the back door of her apartment, went outside and started to go to the Christopher apartment to investigate, but decided against that, and returned to her apartment and immediately called the police. She testified that she told the police she had heard blood curdling screams from the upstairs apartment and that she could not handle the situation. The dispatcher testified he received her disturbance call at 3:23 p.m. and immediately dispatched a squad car to the Hiwassee Apartments. Mrs. Wilson went to her bathroom after calling the police. The shouting, screaming and running upstairs had stopped, but she heard footsteps go into the upstairs bath, the faucet turned on and the sound of someone washing up. Then she heard someone walk across the floor to the door of the Christopher apartment, slam the door shut and run down the steps, just as the police arrived.
Officer C. E. Owen, of the Millington Police Department, was the first officer to arrive at the Hiwassee Apartments. He was alone in a squad car when the disturbance call was assigned to Officers Beck and Brawell. Owen was only two minutes away from the Hiwassee Apartments so he decided to back them up. He parked and walked toward the front entrance. As he did so he saw through a large picture window that a black man was standing on the second floor landing of the stairwell. Owen saw him bend over and pick up an object and come down the stairs and out the front door of the building. He was carrying the overnight bag and a pair of tennis shoes. Owen testified that he was wearing a white shirt and dark colored pants and had "blood all over him. It looked like he was sweating blood." Owen assumed that a domestic fight had taken place and that the blood was that of the person he was confronting. Owen asked, "[H]ow are you doing?" Defendant responded, "I'm the complainant." Owen then asked, "What's going on up there?" At that point Defendant struck Owen with the overnight bag, dropped his tennis shoes and started running west on Biloxi Street. Owen pursued him but Defendant outdistanced him and disappeared into another apartment complex.
Owen called for help on his walkie-talkie and Officer Boyd responded. By that time Owen had decided Defendant was not hurt and the blood was not his own -- he was running too fast. Owen told Boyd that "there's something wrong at that apartment." They returned to 4516 Biloxi. Nancy Wilson had a master key and let them in the locked Christopher apartment. As soon as the door was opened they saw blood on the walls, floor -- everywhere. The three bodies were on the floor of the kitchen. Boyd discovered that the boy was still breathing and called for an ambulance and reported their findings to the chief of police and the detective division. A Medic Ambulance arrived, quickly confirmed that Charisse and Lacie were dead, and departed with Nicholas. He was taken to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis and was on the operating table there from 6:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m., Sunday, 28 June. In addition to multiple lacerations, several stab wounds had gone completely through his body from front to back. One of those was in the middle of his abdomen. The surgeon, Dr. Sherman Hixson, testified that he had to repair and stop bleeding of the spleen, liver, large intestine, small intestine and the vena cava. During the surgery he was given 1700 cc's of blood by transfusion. Dr. Hixson estimated that his normal total blood volume should have been between 1200 and 1300 cc's. He was in intensive care for a period and had two other operations before he left the hospital, but he survived.
Charisse sustained forty-two (42) knife wounds and forty-two (42) defensive wounds on her arms and hands. The medical examiner testified that the forty-two (42) knife wounds represented forty-one (41) thrusts of the knife, "because there was one perforated wound to her left side that went through her -- went through her side. In and out wounds produce two." He said no wound penetrated a very large vessel and the cause of death was bleeding from all of the wounds; there were thirteen (13) wounds "that were very serious and may have by themselves caused death. I can't be sure, but certainly the combination of all the wounds caused death." He testified that death probably occurred within, "maybe 30 minutes, that sort of time period, " but that she would have been unconscious within a few minutes after the stabbing had finished.
The medical examiner testified that the cause of death of Lacie Christopher was multiple stab wounds to the chest, abdomen, back and head, a total of nine. One of the wounds cut the aorta and would have been rapidly fatal.
Defendant was located and arrested at a townhouse where a former girlfriend, Sharon Nathaniel, lived with her sisters. Defendant had attempted to hide in the Nathaniel attic. When arrested he was wearing nothing but dark pants, no shirt, no shoes. As he descended the stairs from the attic he said to the officers, "Man, I ain't killed no woman." Officer Beck said that at the time of his arrest he had "a wild look about him. His pupils were contracted. He was foaming at the mouth, saliva. He appeared to be very nervous. He was breathing real rapid." A search of his pockets revealed a "pony pack" with white residue in it. A toxicologist testified that the white residue tested positive for cocaine. They also found on his person a B&D syringe wrapper and an orange cap from a hypodermic syringe. There was blood on his pants and on his body and he had three or four scratches across his chest. He was wearing a gold Helbrose wristwatch that had bloodstains on it. The weekend bag that he struck Officer Owen with was found in a dumpster in the area. It contained the bloody white shirt he was wearing when Owen saw him at the Hiwassee Apartments, a blue shirt and other shirts.
It was stipulated that Charisse and Lacie had Type O blood and that Nicholas and Defendant had Type A. A forensic serologist testified that Type O blood was found on Defendant's white shirt, blue shirt, tennis shoes and on the bag. Type A blood was found on the black pants Defendant was wearing when seen by Owen and when arrested. Defendant's baseball cap had a size adjustment strap in the back with a U-type opening to accommodate adjustments. That baseball cap was on Lacie's forearm -- her hand and forearm sticking through the opening between the adjustment strap and the cap material. Three Colt 45 beer cans were found on a small table in the living room, two unopened, one opened but not empty, bearing Defendant's fingerprints, and a fourth empty beer can was on the landing outside the apartment door. Defendant was shown to have purchased Colt 45 beer earlier in the day. Defendant's fingerprints were also found on the telephone and counter in the kitchen.
Charisse's body was found on the kitchen floor on her back, her legs fully extended. The right side of her upper body was against the wall, and the outside of her right leg was almost against the back door that opened onto the back porch. Laura Picard was visiting her sister, Helen Truman, who lived in the downstairs apartment across from Nancy Wilson. She was sunbathing in the back yard and heard a noise like a person moaning coming from the Christopher apartment followed by the back door slamming three or four times, "but it didn't want to shut. And this hand, a dark-colored hand with a gold watch, kept trying to shut that back door." It was about that time that Nancy Wilson came out of her back door looking around. Mrs. Picard testified that she knew the manager was looking for the source of the noise and when Mrs. Wilson looked at her she pointed to the Christopher apartment. She said that it was just a few minutes later that the police arrived. She did not have a watch on at the time. She testified that the dark-colored hand she saw three or four times was at a level between the door knob and the bottom of the door.
The medical examiner testified that Charisse was menstruating and a specimen from her vagina tested positive for acid phosphatase. He said that result was consistent with the presence of semen, but not conclusive, absent sperm, and no sperm was found. A used tampon was found on the floor near her knee. The murder weapon, a bloody butcher knife, was found at the feet of Lacie, whose body was also on the kitchen floor near her mother. A kitchen drawer nearby was partially open.
Defendant testified. His defense was that he did not harm any of the Christophers; that he saw a black man descend the inside stairs, race by him and disappear out the front door of the building, as he returned to pick up his bag and beer before proceeding to his friend Sharon Nathaniel's to await the arrival of Bobby Thomas. He said that as the unidentified intruder bounded down the stairs, attired in a white tropical shirt that was longer than his shorts, he dropped change and miscellaneous papers on the stairs which Defendant picked up and put in his pocket as he continued up the stairs to the second floor landing to retrieve his bag and beer. When he reached the landing he heard a baby crying and a faint call for help and saw the door was ajar. He said curiosity motivated him to enter the Christopher apartment and after saying he was "coming in" and "eased the door on back, " he described what he saw and his first actions as follows:
I saw the worst thing I ever saw in my life and like my breath just had -- had tooken -- just took out of me. You know, I didn't know what to do. And I put my hand over my mouth and walked up closer to it. And she was looking at me. She had the knife in her throat with her hand on the knife like she had been trying to get it out and her mouth was just moving but words had faded away. And I didn't know what to do. I was about ready to get sick, about ready to vomit. And so I ran closer -- I saw a phone on the wall and I lift and got the phone on the wall. I said don't worry. I said don't worry. I'm going to get help. Don't worry. Don't worry. And I got ready to grab it -- the phone but I didn't know no number to call. I didn't know nothing. I didn't know nothing about no number or -- I just start trying to twist numbers. I didn't know nothing. And she was watching my movement in the kitchen, like she -- I had saw her. It had been almost a year off and on in the back yard because her kids had played with Bobbie's kids. And I have seen her before. She looked at me like I know you, you know. And I didn't know what to do. I couldn't leave her. I couldn't leave her because she needed -- she needed help. I was raised up to help and I had to help her.

He described how he pulled the knife out of her neck, almost vomited, then kneeled down by the baby girl, had the feeling she was already dead; said the little boy was on his knees crying, he told him not to cry he was going to get help. His explanation of the blood on his shirt, pants, tennis shoes, body, etc., was that when he pulled the knife out of her neck, "she reached up and grab me and hold me, like she was wanting me to help her . . .", that in walking and kneeling on the bloody floor and touching the two babies he got blood all over his clothes. He said he went to the kitchen sink, probably twice, to get water to drink when he thought he was going to vomit, but he denied that he went into the bathroom at any time or used the bathroom lavatory to wash up, as Nancy Wilson testified she heard someone do after the violence subsided.

He was then suddenly motivated to leave and seek help and he described his exit from the apartment as follows:

And I left. My motivation was going and banging on some doors, just to knock on some doors and tell someone need help, somebody call somebody, call the ambulance, call somebody. And when I -- as soon as I left out the door I saw a police car, and some other feeling just went all over me and just panicked, just like, oh, look at this. I'm coming out of here with blood on me and everything. It going to look like I done this crime.
The shoulder strap on the left shoulder of the blue shirt he was wearing while in the victim's apartment was torn, a fact he did not seem to realize and could not remember when it happened. He said he ran because the officer did not seem to believe him. He claimed that he had the Colt 45 beer with him as he ran; that the open can with beer in it spilled into the sack, as he ran from Owen, the bottom of the sack broke, the beer and tennis shoes were scattered along his route. He said that what witnesses had described as scratches were stretch marks from lifting weights.
Defendant presented five character witnesses who testified that Defendant's reputation for truth and veracity was good. Ruth Wakefield Bell testified that she had known Defendant all of his life. She was age 40 and lived in the same block on Biloxi as the Hiwassee Apartments, across the street. She said that on the Saturday afternoon of the murders, Defendant knocked on her door, identified himself and she looked out her bedroom window and saw him, but she did not let him in -- she was upset with her boyfriend and did not want to see or "entertain" anyone. She denied that she was afraid to let him in -- or that there was anything unusual about his appearance. She estimated that it was about twenty minutes after he knocked on her door that she saw police cars and an ambulance across the street. Defendant testified that he knocked on her door just before he decided to go to Sharon Nathaniels and went in the Hiwassee Apartments to pick up his bag and beer.

Payne, 791 S.W.2d at 11-15. The Tennessee Supreme Court later summarized the evidence presented during the penalty phase as follows:

At sentencing the State presented only two witnesses, Mary Zvolanek, Charisse's mother and Detective Sammy Wilson of the Millington Police Department. Mrs. Zvolanek testified very briefly about how her grandson, Nicholas, cried for his mother and sister and could not understand what had happened. Detective Wilson was one of two detectives that conducted the investigation of these crimes. He testified at the guilt phase of the trial and was recalled at the sentencing phase to identify a videotape that he had made of the crime scene. He did so and the tape was played for the jury, over objection.
Defendant presented the testimony of four witnesses at the sentencing phase of the trial, his mother and father, Bobbie Thomas, and Dr. John T. Hutson.
Bobbie Thomas testified that she joined Defendant's father's church and became acquainted with Defendant; that she had a troubled marriage, was abused by her husband and it had a bad effect upon her three children; that Defendant was a very caring person and the time and attention he had devoted to her children had "got them back to their old self." She said she did not drink or use drugs and neither did Defendant; that it was inconsistent with Defendant's character to have committed these crimes.
Dr. Hutson is a clinical psychologist, who specializes in criminal court evaluation work. He gave Defendant the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) revised version. Defendant's scores were Verbal IQ 78, Performance IQ 82, with a variance of plus or minus 3 on the Verbal and plus or minus 4 on the Performance. He testified that the norm closer to 110; that historically the mental retardation score was 75, but "retardation" is not commonly used anymore. He preferred mentally handicapped. He also gave Defendant the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). That test consists of 566 questions that tests a number of different things, that give insight into personality functioning, responses to stress and physical performance. Various "scales" measure lying or faking, hypochondria, depression, hysteria, psychopathic deviance, sexuality, paranoia, cyclothymia, schizophrenia and mania. The tests are graded by computer. Dr. Hutson testified that Defendant was in a normal range or near normal range, with the exception of intelligence and schizophrenia. He said that Defendant "was actually lower intellectually than I had anticipated. And he is low enough that I consider it significant." He testified that Defendant scored above the normal -- which is moving toward psychotic -- but that in his opinion Defendant was not psychotic or schizophrenic -- that that scale of the MMPI, "has a racial bias to it. [African Americans] tend to look higher on it when actually its very normal for them." The testing was performed in October, about three months after the murders. Dr. Hutson described Defendant as "somewhat naive" and one of the most polite individuals he had ever interviewed in jail.
Defendant's parents testified that Defendant had no prior criminal record, had never been arrested and had no history of alcohol or drug abuse; that he worked with his father as a ...

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