CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. (Court TV) — The trial is underway for a Georgia woman accused of fatally shooting a man during a traffic dispute.
Hannah Payne, 25, faces a possible life sentence for shooting Kenneth Herring in the abdomen when she was 21.
According to investigators, at around 6 pm on May 7, 2019, the victim, 62-year-old Herring, was driving his Dodge pickup truck when he ran a red light and hit an 18-wheeler. Both vehicles were damaged, and the drivers pulled over to wait for police to arrive.
Herring’s accident was witnessed by two people who pulled over to help — the defendant, Hannah Payne, and an officer with the Georgia Department of Corrections named Terry Robinson. Robinson, who worked in the infirmary at a local prison, examined Herring and noticed that he appeared disoriented.
A police officer reported that Herring’s eyes looked to be a reddish-orange color. He believed Herring was in diabetic shock.
Payne and Robinson stayed with both drivers for about 20 minutes waiting for the police to arrive when Herring returned to his truck and left the scene.
According to a defense motion, Robinson encouraged Payne to follow Herring after he left the scene so that she could get his license tag number.
Payne reportedly called 911 as she followed Herring to report the tag number. The dispatcher told her to return to the accident scene and not to follow Herring.
Accident, self-defense, or murder?
According to the defense motion, Payne was concerned that Herring might cause another accident, so she followed him until the police could intervene to stop him.
Roughly one mile from the original accident scene, Payne pulled her Jeep Wrangler in front of Herring’s truck to stop him. She got out of her Jeep and approached Herring’s truck. According to the defense motion, Herring revved his engine and attempted to run Payne over.
The motion states that as Payne approached Herring’s truck, he grabbed her by the shirt and pulled her closer to his vehicle’s window. Payne told investigators that she then pulled out a semi-automatic 9mm that was holstered to her hip, a struggle for the gun ensued and the weapon discharged.
Clayton County Police, responding to a 911 call, reached Herring’s truck at 6:20 pm. They found him sitting in the front seat, suffering from a gunshot wound to the abdomen. They rushed him to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead less than an hour later.
According to prosecutors, Herring never got out of the truck; and his blood toxicology report showed no drugs or alcohol in his system. In an interview with Atlanta’s WXIA in 2019, Herring’s wife stated that she believed her husband was experiencing a diabetic episode and was trying to get to a hospital.
The State also says that a bystander took a video of the incident in which Payne can be seen hitting Herring with her left hand while holding the gun in her right. The footage reportedly shows the gun going inside the vehicle, but it’s not possible to see who pulled the trigger.
Payne faces eight charges, including two counts of felony murder, one count of malice murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment, and three counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
Payne, now 25, has pleaded not guilty and is free on a $220,000 bond.
Court TV’s Emily Kean contributed to this report.
DAILY TRIAL UPDATES
DAY 3 – 12/8/23
- The medical examiner testified about Kenneth Herring’s cause of death, saying he was killed by a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
- Cameron Williams, another eyewitness, testified about seeing the confrontation between Hannah Payne and Kenneth Herring as the jury saw a cellphone video he recorded of the incident.
- Detectives testified to their response and investigation as the jury saw bodycam footage from the incident.
- WATCH: Car Crash Vigilante Trial: Day 3 Recap
DAY 2 – 12/7/23
- Jurors heard Hannah Payne’s 911 call where she was repeatedly told by the dispatcher not to chase Kenneth Herring.
- Eyewitnesses testified to seeing the altercation and described Hannah Payne as the aggressor in the situation.
- WATCH: Car Crash Vigilante Trial: Day 2 Recap
DAY 1 – 12/6/23
- Bonnie Smith delivered opening statements for the prosecution, emphasizing “audacity” and describing Hannah Payne as the aggressor.
- Hannah Payne’s attorney talked about her youth and naivete in his opening statement.
- The jury heard the 911 call from Terry Robinson, a bystander who saw the initial crash.
- WATCH: Car Crash Vigilante Trial: Day 1 Recap