Bishops of Tennessee appeal to Gov. Bill Lee “to stop another needless execution.”

Click here to read original letter

The Bishops of the three Dioceses in Tennessee, our Bishop David Talley, Bishop Mark Spalding, Nashville and Bishop Richard Stika, Knoxville, in conjunction with the Tennessee Catholic Public Policy Commission, have again appealed to Gov. Bill Lee “to stop another needless execution.”

·      In a letter to the Governor, dated Oct. 27 (attached), the Bishops wrote that they “clearly state our strong opposition to the state carrying out the death penalty in the case of Pervis Payne scheduled for Dec. 3, 2020. Carrying out this execution does not serve the cause of justice and bucks the national trend of moving away from capital punishment.”

·      The Bishops note that “nationally, we have seen more than 165 people released from death row after they have been found to have been innocent of the crime for which they were convicted. Based on a human system as it is, there is always the chance that the state executes an innocent person. But even when guilt is certain, execution is not necessary to protect society.” The three Bishops point out that Pope Francis as well as St. John Paul II have called for the end to the death penalty as both cruel and unnecessary.

·      In the letter, the Bishops also offered their prayers for victims of crime and their families and friends, “that they might find peace and healing in God’s boundless love. We pray particularly for Charisse Christopher, a vibrant 28-year-old, and her 2-year-old daughter, Lacie Jo, whose lives were tragically cut short in 1987. It is for their deaths that Mr. Payne faces execution. We also pray for Christopher’s then 3-year-old son, Nicholas, who was seriously injured in the same attack but survived. We pray for Mr. Payne that he, like all sinners, might find mercy in God’s eternal judgment,” the Bishops wrote.

·      Payne, a person with an intellectual disability, was accused and sentenced to death for the murder of Christopher and her daughter in 1988, and has spent 32 years on Tennessee’s death row, during which time he has maintained his innocence.


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