Payne sentenced to 35 years in jail for murder

  • Demontay Payne enters the courtroom on Sept. 19, just hours before a jury found him guilty of murder.

A jury did not believe a Barnwell man’s claim of self-defense in a 2015 shooting case.

Demontay Markeith Payne, 28, of 25 Wingo Estates Road, Barnwell, was found guilty of the May 23, 2015 murder of DeVante Quintell Odom. The jury rendered the verdict on Tuesday, Sept. 19 after approximately three hours of deliberation following a two-day trial at the Barnwell County Courthouse.

While Payne didn’t deny shooting Odom, he claimed the shooting was in self-defense after Odom allegedly shot at him first.

Deputy Solicitor David Miller said it “really didn’t matter” if Odom fired or not because the evidence and testimony did not corroborate Payne’s self-defense claim. Under South Carolina law, a person is justified in using deadly force if four criteria are met. Two of the reasons include: the person was without fault in bringing on the difficulty that led to them defending themselves, and they had no other probable means to avoid the danger of losing his own life or sustaining serious bodily injury than to act like they did. These are the points that Miller and Assistant Solicitor Jackson Cooper argued against.

During the trial, it was presented that Odom and Payne got into an argument in front of a house at 59 Wingo Estates Road in Barnwell, which is next door to where Payne lived. However, Payne testified that he could not recall what was said that led to the argument.

Odom eventually left and walked down the street. Payne soon left in his vehicle and went in the same direction toward his house. Another altercation between the two men soon ensued down the road.

“If he hadn’t followed him, there never would have been a second altercation. The entire second altercation was the result of the defendant putting himself in that situation,” said Miller.

Payne also stated he was approximately 12 to 15 feet away from Odom when he shot him. However, Dr. Janice Ross, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy, testified that the gunshot wound to Odom’s chest had characteristics of the gun being fired from only 18 to 24 inches away.

A witness for the prosecution testified that Payne was close to Odom at the time of the shooting. Miller said the witness called 911 and has cooperated with law enforcement from the beginning by providing “consistent” accounts.

The sister of the witness testified for the defense. Her story was not only different from the one her sister gave, but also from testimony Payne gave from the stand. Miller said the sister who testified for the defense only came forward after being subpoenaed by the defense in recent months.

Though the jury came back and asked to rehear the self-defense law, they eventually returned with a guilty verdict. Judge Jack Early sentenced Payne to 35 years in prison with credit for the 843 days he’s already served.

“This was definitely a difficult case but obviously we think we got it right,” said Miller of how the jury had to apply legal principles in their decision-making process due to the self-defense claim.

Due to plans to file for an appeal, defense attorney Joshua Koger Jr. said he had no comment at this time.

“This was self-defense. We will be back in court,” said Mike Payne, who in a Facebook post identified himself as an uncle of the defendant.

Though he wasn’t happy with the verdict, he acknowledged it’s a “sad case for both of our families, the deceased and my family. We feel the justice system didn’t work. They feel as if justice was served.”

Last week’s trial came about a month after Payne was originally scheduled to have his day in court. However, just before court was set to begin on August 23, an allegation of witness intimidation was made by a witness for the defense who testified the day before in a Stand Your Ground hearing. This led Judge Early to postpone the trial until Sept. 18.

Khalid Abdul Roberts, 23, of 73 Wingo Estates Road, Barnwell, claimed someone approached him at work stating there was a threatening Facebook post about him. The State Law Enforcement Division investigated and determined there was no intimidation. In fact, Miller said, SLED discovered Roberts failed to report to work on the day he claimed he was informed of the threatening message.

Roberts now faces charges of perjury (false testimony under oath) and obstructing justice, said Miller. Roberts was granted a $25,000 surety bond on the obstruction charge and $5,000 surety bond on perjury charge, according to online court records.