Hannah Payne sentenced to life for murder of man during citizen's arrest

Hannah Payne, the 25-year-old woman found guilty in the death of 62-year-old Kenneth Herring in Clayton County, will spend the rest of her life behind bars with a chance of parole.

Payne, handcuffed and wearing her prison uniform, was overcome with emotion as Judge Jewell C. Scott sentenced her to life in prison with the possibility of parole plus eight and five years to be served consecutively.

Hannah Payne cries during testimony at her sentencing hearing in Clayton County.

A Clayton County jury convicted Payne of felony murder, malice murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and three charges of weapons possession during a crime on Wednesday.

Before declaring her sentence, Scott heard from members of Herring's family, who asked her to give Payne life in prison. 

Hannah Payne murder trial: Guilty on all counts 

"I no longer have a big brother," said Vickie Lynn Herring, Kenneth Herring's youngest sister, tearing up while remembering the times growing up with the victim. "His grandchildren won't know him. He has two children who don't have a father anymore. There were six of us. Now there's the five of us that are left."   

Jaquerlyn Herring testifies in court.

Kenneth's sister Jaquerlyn Herring remembered her big brother as the type who would always boss the rest of the kids around and would leave jokes on her answering machine. 

"I can't call him if I wanted to. I can't visit him if I wanted to. I can go to the grave site, but he can't respond, she said, saying she wanted the same thing for Payne. "Where he got death without parole. I would like for her to have life without parole." 

Reana Novotny, a friend of the Paynes, talked about watching Hannah growing up and how she supported both her and Payne's mother while they dealt with cancer.

"For Mr. Herring's family, I would like for you to know that her heart has broken a million times. And in spite of anything that anyone has alleged or told you, please know that from the depths of her heart and soul, she would have never wanted harm to come to your loved one," Novotny said.

The case got national attention, but Clayton County District Attorney Mosley says they do not believe the murder was race related. She called the sentence a victory and says even if Payne eventually gets parole, she will still have to serve at least 43 years.  

"In our mind, when you look at 43 years and you're 25, all the good years are gone," she said.

Prosecutors investigating death threats against families

After the sentencing, the Clayton County District Attorney Tasha Mosley told FOX 5 that her office is investigating multiple death threats against both families connected to the trial.

Mosley said the intensity of the threats led her office to open an investigation into who sent the messages.

"If they get them, we will prosecute them. This is enough. These families have been through enough," Mosley said. "The siblings of Mr. Herring did absolutely nothing wrong. The family of Hannah Payne did absolutely nothing wrong."

She did not share details about the content of the messages or who received the death threats. 

Hannah Payne murder trial testimony

Prosecutors accused Payne of playing cop in 2019 when she followed Herring after he left the scene of a crash she was not directly involved in. Payne cut him off and eventually shot him.

The defense claimed Payne acted in self-defense because after confronting Herring, she claimed he started attacking her.  

Payne took the stand in her own defense during the murder trial. She said there was a state officer present at the initial crash of which she was a witness. She claimed that the officer told her and another witness at the scene outright that Herring was inebriated.

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.

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.

She then told the court that Herring grabbed her shirt and her wrist and pulled her into the vehicle and she saw her life flash before her eyes. Additionally, she claimed Herring appeared to be reaching behind his front seats before "mashing the gas" and crashing into her car. It was at that time that she drew out her gun.

Payne claimed Herring tried to take the gun from her and it went off. She also claimed that her finger was never on the trigger.

Despite her testimony, it only took the jury two hours to reach a verdict, finding her guilty on all counts.