Clayton County

Lawyer for woman accused of gunning down hit-and-run driver says race wasn’t a factor

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — Jury selection is underway in the trial of a woman accused of following a hit-and-run driver and then shooting and killing him when he didn’t surrender.

Hannah Payne, 25, faces malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in the May 2019 incident that left 67-year-old Kenneth Herring dead.

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Channel 2′s Tom Jones was in the courtroom Tuesday, where the Clayton County NAACP is asking supporters to pack the courtroom because it is concerned Herring’s family won’t get justice because Herring was Black and Payne is White.

Payne’s attorney, Matt Tucker, said race has no relevance.

“Race is not a part of it,” Tucker said. “It just escalated to something that shouldn’t have, and I believe that when the facts come out, everybody will understand.”

On Tuesday, potential jurors were still being questioned about the high-profile case. One panel of 15 said they hadn’t heard of the case and could be impartial. Channel 2 Action News camera followed Payne as she left the courthouse right after she rejected a plea where the state offered her life with parole.

Tucker countered with a five-year sentence. Prosecutors quickly rejected that.

“That’s not a plea deal. That’s an offer that is statutorily required with those charges,” Tucker said.

It all stems from an incident where police say Herring got into a minor collision with a truck. They say he stopped, then got in his car and drove off, possibly because of a medical emergency.

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Officers say Payne saw what happened, called 911 and followed Herring. Police say 911 told her not to follow him. Prosecutors say Payne cut Herring off at Riverdale Road and Forest Parkway and went to his car with a gun.

There was a struggle and Herring was shot and killed.

Back in 2019, Jones spoke to Herring’s estranged wife. Christina Herring questioned Payne’s decision to pursue him.

“Why would you get out of the car until the police came? That would have been logical. If they told you to stay in the car why would you get out?” she said.

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Payne’s attorney says Payne was initially told to pursue. Back in 2019, Matt Tucker said Payne had good intentions.

“It just seems like it’s an unfortunate situation of a good Samaritan trying to stop a person on a hit-and-run,” he said. Tucker claims this is a case of self-defense.

Meanwhile, the NAACP has its eye on this case. It posted a message on social media, asking people to come to court to watch the trial.

“Come to support Mr. Herring’s family and to make sure that justice is accomplished,” Gerald Griggs said.

Payne faces murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

She faces life with or without parole. Payne is currently out on bond.

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