Sunday, November 18, 2007

How Do You Stop An Execution?

I was talking to a friend of mine from high school recently. Someone who knew Pervis Payne as I knew him; as a friend. It was then that I found out a date has been set for the State of Tennessee to execute him. December 12, 2007. What do we do? How do you stop an execution?

Since I first mentioned Pervis Payne on this blog I've received a few emails from people on the subject. Some say fry the motherfucker! Some say they speak to him regularly in prison and that he has changed their lives. I met him when I was 13.

Back then I was in 8th grade, a drummer in the school band. The high school back then was so small the band director recruited a few 8th graders to help fill out the band. So I was one of those lucky few. You would not believe the characters around the drum line back then. Our section leader was a 21 year old black man who wore dangling earrings and Beatle boots. He spoke in metaphors like a hipster prophet. He was our Moses leading us to the promised land. I was 13 years old and you couldn't tell me shit. I was in the high school drum line.

But those first few days for me were rough. I was a scrawny little kid with a face full of pimples, bad hair and bad teeth. I was as shy as I was mortified to open my mouth. The first upper classmen to recognize how scared and out of my element I was was Pervis Payne. During those first few days of my first band camp ever, when it was hotter than Hades out, and I was struggling to learn how to just walk with a drum strapped on the front of my pitiful frame, it was Pervis who put his arm around me. He said to me don't worry little man, you're amongst friends here.

I thought it was the beginning of some awful hazing ritual because this guy, while not as tall as our section leader, was way more powerfully built. Pervis worked out all the time and when he put his huge arm on my shoulder I had no idea what was about to happen. But what he was doing was letting the rest of the guys know they better not fuck with me. And that's all it took because after that, everything seemed easier, even marching with that damn drum!

As I said before, being in a drum line is like being in a family. We all watched each others backs. At least at the time we did. Needless to say I got through that year and went on to become section leader myself. Later I was able to go to college in large part because of the band scholarship I received.

But I wonder what did Pervis get out of the drum line? I know he didn't learn that a good way to pass the time waiting for his girlfriend to get home is to rape his girlfriends neighbor, while her kids are there, in the middle of the afternoon, and then try to "cover it up" by killing everyone in the apartment. I know he didn't do that.

Earlier this year I also wrote about Judge Jon P Colton denying a request by Pervis and his lawyers to test for dna any evidence that the state still has. His lawyers believe that the sperm residue found inside the victim will be that of somebody else. The victim's boyfriend at the time testified that he spent the night with her the night before she was murdered. He testified they had sex. This was never mentioned at the murder trial mind you. This came out after Pervis was sentenced to death. THE JURY THAT CONVICTED HIM NEVER HEARD ANYTHING ABOUT THE BOYFRIEND! And it was never brought up in court anywhere, it was part of a deposition by Pervis' subsequent legal team. It's a shame that somebody started to do a little digging after the fact.

Isn't this what the legal system is for? Isn't this what appeals are all about? Why not do a dna test?

I told my friend Charles, we have to go to the media and stir up political pressure. But the truth is nobody cares. They don't care if he's guilty or innocent. And if they execute him only his family and the few friends who remember him will shed a tear. I know some of them. I'm among them.

But what do we do? How do you stop an execution?