Hannah Payne murder trial: Guilty on all counts

Hannah Payne has been convicted on all charges in the death of 62-year-old Kenneth Herring.

The jury found Payne guilty of felony murder, malice murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and three charges of weapons possession during a crime.

The 25-year-old looked down and sobbed as a Clayton County jury found her guilty of chasing down and killing Herring after he fled from a car accident she had witnessed.

It took only two hours for the jury to reach the verdict.

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Hannah Payne breaks down crying after being found guilty on all counts in the death 62-year-old Kenneth Herring in a Clayton County courtroom on Dec. 12, 2023. (FOX 5)

The defense asked the judge to poll each juror after the verdict was read.

Sentencing is expected to be 10 a.m. Friday.

Kenneth Herring's family reacts to guilty verdict in Hannah Payne murder trial

The family of 62-year-old Kenneth Herring say they have been waiting four years for this day.

His sisters were emotional after coming from the courtroom.


The family of 62-year-old Kenneth Herring react to the guilty verdict for Hannah Payne in a Clayton County courtroom on Dec. 12, 2023. (FOX 5)

"The state did its job, and the jury did its job," said Vicky Herring, his youngest sister.

"When I heard the first verdict, I knew we weren’t supposed to show signs, but tears just started rolling down my face because at that moment I felt a relief that came over," said Jacqueline Herring, one of his sisters.

Closing arguments in Hannah Payne murder trial

After days of testimony in a Clayton County courtroom, prosecutors and Hannah Payne’s defense attorney had one final chance Tuesday to make their cases to the jury before deliberations got underway. 

"They didn’t show beyond a reasonable doubt that certain things happened," said Matt Tucker, Payne’s defense attorney.

"You don’t get the death penalty for committing a traffic infraction," said Nigel Hunter, a Clayton County Assistant District Attorney.

Prosecutors accuse Payne of playing cop in 2019 when they say she followed 62-year-old Kenneth Herring after he left the scene of a crash she was not directly involved in. They say Payne cut him off and eventually shot him. 

"Sixty-two-year-old Kenneth Herring, who was unarmed and minding his own business, was chased down, detained, shot, and murdered by this defendant," Hunter said.

Throughout the trial, jurors heard a lot, including 911 calls and Payne's interview with police, among other things. They also heard from witnesses and from Payne herself.

"The audacity to take the stand and blame everybody else," Hunter said.

The defense says Payne acted in self-defense because after confronting Herring, she claims he started attacking her. Tucker says Payne was just trying to help out after witnessing a crash. 

"In her mind, she was a young individual trying to help out," Tucker said. "No good deed goes unpunished."

During Tucker’s closing argument, he went back through every witness who took the stand in hopes of getting the jury to reach a verdict in favor of his client. 

"This is not some killer, this is not some murder," Tucker said. "She’s some young girl who got caught up in the wrong situation.

Hannah Payne takes stand in her own defense


Hannah Payne

On the fourth day in the murder trial of a woman accused of shooting and killing a man who drove away from a crash, Hananh Payne took the stand in her own defense.

Payne's attorney, Matt Tucker, asked her to give the courtroom a play-by-play of what happened leading up to her allegedly following, shooting and killing 62-year-old Kenneth Herring.

Payne told Tucker there was a state officer present at the initial crash that she was a witness of. She claimed that the officer told her and another witness at the scene outright that Herring was inebriated.


Kenneth Herring  (Supplied)

At some point, Payne said Herring started revving his engine and pulled away from the scene of the initial crash.

She testified that at the time, she was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher who asked if she had been able to grab his tag number. She said when she realized she hadn't, and thought no one else did either, she got in her car. 

She told the court that Terry Robinson, the man she believed to be the state officer, told her to "go," insinuating he wanted her to follow Herring.

Last week, jurors were able to hear a recording of the two 911 calls that Payne made during the incident.

In one recording, the dispatcher asked, "OK, so you couldn’t get a tag number?" Payne responded, "No, but I’m catching up to him right now." The dispatcher responded, "OK, ma’am we actually do not want you to chase him, we just want you to be safe."

During Monday's testimony, Payne continuously stated that she wasn't following Herring, but rather just staying behind him, so she could give the dispatcher a play-by-play of what he was doing and where he was, in order to help them find him when they got to the scene.

On Monday, Payne's lawyer asked her if, at any point, Payne had disclosed she was carrying a firearm. She said she didn't tell the dispatcher about her gun and said at that point she hadn't been in fear.

At one point, Payne testified that Herring's car stopped in a turning lane. She said she exited her vehicle, and approached Herring with her phone on speaker to show that she was in contact with 911. She said she told him the dispatcher asked both of them to return to the original accident site.

 "We're loud, it's near an interstate, it's a busy road and I can't hear what he's saying to me. But as I'm getting closer to him, I hear him ask me who the ‘f’ am I," Payne told the court. She said she told him she was nobody, but she knew what the dispatcher wanted because she was on the phone with them.

"Apparently, I was close enough for him to reach out of the car and knock my phone out of my hand. He grabbed me by my wrist and pulled me into the vehicle," Payne testified. "I wasn't aware that I needed adequate space to stay away from him, or anybody."

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An image of Hannah Payne with a gun standing outside the pickup truck of Kenneth Herring was entered into evidence for the 2019 murder in a Clayton County courtroom on Dec. 8, 2023. (Supplied)

"At some point, my shirt had gotten grabbed. And he ….," Payne paused, "… he pulled my wrist and pulled me into the vehicle, and he said ‘I have something for you.’"

She said Herring let go of her wrist and grabbed her by the back of her neck. She said Herring then hit the gas, moving his car forward.

"I saw my life flash before my eyes," Payne testified. "I thought I was going to go down Riverdale Road hanging out the side of this car."

Payne said Herring appeared to be reaching behind his front seats before "mashing the gas." She said eventually, they crashed into her car and that's when she drew her weapon from her a holster on her right hip.

She said Herring then grabbed her hand with the gun in it and tried to yank it away from her and pry it out of her hand.

The lawyer presented a toy gun to the jury and asked Payne to hold it and demonstrate how she felt Herring had a hold on her.

"As he's pulling it is when the gun went off," Payne said.

She said after the shooting, she turned and picked up her phone from the ground and told the dispatcher Herring had pulled the trigger on her gun.

Payne told her attorney that when she was free she noticed someone standing behind her and asked if he would stay to be a witness. That witness was identified as Cameron Williams, who testified on Friday.

Payne also asked the dispatcher for an ambulance and returned her gun to its holster. She testified in court that she told responding officials that she did not shoot Herring and that her finger was never on the trigger.

Tucker, the attorney, said he had a video to play and needed to give the jury a break in order to get the technology component together. Judge Jewel C. Scott awarded him a few minutes to figure it out.

When court returned, Tucker played back body camera footage of an interview between Payne and an officer as she sat in the back of a police car. The audio was difficult to hear, but it appeared to show her recalling her perspective of what happened leading up to the shooting.

In the video, Payne can be heard telling the officer twice that she warned Herring she had a gun, and that she would shoot him. She also mentioned to the officer that she didn't want to pull the trigger.

Payne's attorney ended the video after her interview was over and returned to questioning her on the stand.

"I was overwhelmed. I didn't really know what was going on. I was scared," Payne recalled feeling while the officer questioned her.

"Clearly, trying to do the right thing is not the right answer," Payne said as she began to cry.

The state then began cross-examining Payne, asking questions in an attempt to poke holes in her testimony.

The state presented a transcript of the 911 call, asking Payne to identify four times the dispatcher asked her to stop chasing Herring. Payne acknowledged she understood the dispatcher's requests as suggestions, and not requirements. She also said she believed there to be a difference between chasing or following, and staying near Herring to keep officers up to date.

Her lawyer was given an opportunity for a redirect examination.