White woman convicted of malice murder for ‘self-defense’ shooting of Black hit-and-run suspect

Atlanta, Georgia – A White woman, charged with the 2019 shooting death of a Black hit-and-run suspect, was found guilty of murder on Wednesday. The jury took a little over two hours before reaching the verdict, despite physical evidence confirming she was attacked before the gun went off.

On Wednesday, White 25-year-old Hannah Payne shed tears as she was found guilty of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. She had been charged for the May 2019 shooting of 62-year-old Kenneth Herring, a Black hit and run driver some believe was intoxicated and shot in self-defense.

Payne—who has been viciously smeared in Black media as a “violent Karen“—was found guilty on all five counts by a jury in Clayton County, a region of Georgia listed as 73% Black per the US Census. She now faces the death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

According to prosecutors, Payne had followed Herring’s car after she witnessed him ram another vehicle and drive off from the scene. While on the phone with a 911 dispatcher, defense attorneys proved that the Police instructed Payne to obtain Herring’s license plate number. While she was advised not to pursue Herring, audio of the call demonstrated that Payne and the dispatcher had frantically spoken over each other, making the commands difficult to hear as the incident unfolded.

Eventually, Herring’s vehicle had given out due to damage from the crash, according to testimony. After Payne got out of her car to confront him, 911 dispatchers advised her and others to return to meet with police. She believed that meant dispatchers wanted her to bring Herring back with her.

While Payne was on speakerphone with the dispatcher, she testified that Herring lashed out, grabbed her wrist, and tried to pull her inside his car.

“Apparently, I was close enough for him to reach out the car. He knocked my phone out of my hand. And he grabbed me by my wrist. And he pulled me into the vehicle,” said Payne during testimony. “It felt like it lasted forever. And I just remember, it was like I saw my life flash before my eyes.”

During the trial, defense attorneys supplied photo evidence that Herring had ripped Payne’s black top and left bruises along her arm, believed to be sustained during the course of an attack. She said she thought she was in danger of being dragged into the roadway and pulled her registered firearm in response. While she never intended to shoot Herring, she said he then grabbed her neck and gun, which fired shortly after.

25-year-old Hannah Payne (right) is now facing life imprisonment or the death penalty for the killing of Black hit-and-run suspect Kenneth Herring (left). Defense attorneys for Payne showed physical evidence that Herring had attacked Payne through the driver’s side window of his car when the gun suddenly fired, killing him. Photo: WSBTV2

“Pulling it out, he would let me go, and I’d pull away from the vehicle,” said Payne, hoping to de-escalate the situation. “And that would be it.”

Herring’s wife had previously contested that Herring may have gone into a “diabetic” shock during the time of the incident and was driving to “get help.” Prosecutors pointed toward Herring’s lack of a weapon as evidence of Payne’s guilt. Eyewitnesses called to the stand said they believed Herring was intoxicated, with one saying they even saw Herring gesture to Payne that she “follow him.”

“Kenneth Herring, who was unarmed and minding his own business, was chased down, detained, shot, and murdered,” said a prosecutor during closing arguments. “You don’t get the death penalty for committing a traffic offense.”

Despite the overwhelming evidence, Payne was found guilty of all counts, including malice murder in the death of Kenneth Herring. In Georgia, malice murder is described as a murder “where no considerable provocation appears and where all the circumstances of the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart.” Now convicted, Payne could face imprisonment for life or even the death penalty. Sentencing is scheduled to begin on Friday.

According to reports, the jury took only two hours to reach the guilty verdict. Clayton County, Georgia, where the Jury would have been recruited, is listed as an overwhelmingly Black county. According to the official US Census report, Black Americans make up a whopping 73% of all residents, meaning Payne more than likely would have been judged by a disproportionate number of people from the opposite race.

The unfortunate story of Hannah Payne closely resonates with that of Travis and Gregory McMichael, two White men convicted of murder for the death of Black career criminal Ahmaud Arbery in Savannah. The McMichaels, along with their neighbor William Bryan—who filmed the incident—were sentenced to life imprisonment and claimed they first followed Arbury after believing him to have committed a crime in their neighborhood. Like Herring, Arbery was filmed grabbing a firearm and was shot to prevent him from using it against his pursuers.

The seal of Clayton County, Georgia, where Payne was convicted. According to the US Census, the county rests at 73% Black, meaning jurors for this trial would have predominantly been composed of members of the opposite race of the accused. Photo: Court TV

In the modern day, White people are consistently issued harsh or heavy-handed verdicts compared to their racial counterparts in the court of law. In 2020, White Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of killing drug addict and ex-convicted criminal George Floyd. The event sparked a series of fiery riots known in the United States as the summer of racial reckoning. During his trial, Chauvin was found guilty of several contradictory criminal charges, including second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. Additionally, he was stabbed 22 times by a fellow inmate while incarcerated, which the Federal Bureau of Prisons has been accused of failing to prevent.

Payne, the McMichaels, and Chauvin’s treatment in the courts appear to only highlight a growing set of double standards latent inside the criminal justice system, an institution that has levied several accusations of being “anti-White” by design. In 2022, the infamous Black serial killer, Billy Chemirmir, was convicted of killing dozens of elderly White women during assisted living home robberies. Despite fully qualifying for the death penalty, local prosecutors ignored public demand for capital punishment and washed their hands of the issue.

In Akron, Ohio, Black career criminal Kieth Earley was arrested for the abuse of a White teenager’s corpse. An independent Justice Report investigation revealed Earley was a notorious career criminal with a vast history of prison violence and other incidents of violent misbehavior. In Nashville, a different Black career criminal was arrested for shooting and killing a White student attending a nearby college. He was deemed too “incompetent” to stand trial in an earlier shooting. In both instances, the men were allowed to walk the streets despite multiple second chances and other run-ins with the law.

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