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It's Life in Prison for Dallas Cop Killer

It's Life in Prison for Dallas Cop Killer

Dallas Morning News via YellowBrix

June 13, 2011

DALLAS – A jury on Monday sentenced Charles Payne to life in prison for the murder of Dallas police Senior Cpl. Norm Smith in January 2009.

After State District Judge Rick Magnis read the jury’s verdict, Smith’s mother, Carolyn Long, smiled slightly and reached over and briefly clasped the hand of Dallas police Sr. Cpl. Teena Schultz.

Schultz is a member of the police gang unit where Smith served at the time of his shooting death at an east Oak Cliff apartment. The gang unit was there to serve an arrest warrant on Payne’s cousin when Payne shot Smith at the door.

Smith’s wife, Dallas police Lt. Regina Smith, has not attended the trial since before jurors found Payne, 29, guilty of murder. Dallas County prosecutor David Alex said the trial has been “too much” for her emotionally.

Several of Payne’s family members, including his mother Tommie Payne, began crying as they heard the sentence. Payne’s father, Gary Jobe, and grandmother, Mabel Jobe, instructed family members to calm down and leave the courtroom. The tears continued in the hallway.

Long declined to comment outside the courtroom. But during the trial, she testified that she has been able to cope with the emotions of the trial by thinking about what her son would say to her.

“He’d say, ‘stiff upper lip, Mom,’ ” said Long. Smith, whose father was British, lived in Great Britain until he was 17.

Jurors left without commenting on their decision. They deliberated three days before finding Payne guilty and just a few hours before deciding his sentence.

Alex said jurors told the attorneys that their long deliberations to decide Payne was guilty of murder were because a majority wanted to find Payne guilty of capital murder. A capital murder verdict would have made Payne eligible for the death penalty. It also would have meant that jurors believed Payne knew that Smith was police officer when he fired the shots through his door.

Alex declined to elaborate, saying the jurors should speak for themselves if they wanted.

Payne’s defense attorney, Ed “Bubba” King said, “The death of Sr. Cpl. Norm Smith was a tragedy. Nobody won … Neither side got what they wanted. That’s probably the definition of justice.”

The jury’s sentence indicated that they believed Payne did not act with sudden passion — i.e. he was not provoked into shooting by Smith or another officer, and did not lack time for what the charge to the jury called “cool reflection.” Such a finding could have resulted in a sentence of two to 20 years for Payne.

But in convicting Payne of murder, the jury also rejected his claim of self-defense. Payne had testified that he thought he was being robbed and feared for his life when officers showed up at his door.

With a death sentence off the table, Dallas County prosecutors received the life sentence they then sought.

The killing happened when gang unit officers went to Payne’s apartment to serve the aggravated robbery warrant for his cousin. Payne fired through the door, striking Smith, 43, near his left eye and killing him almost instantly.

The jury rejected the argument that Charles Payne, 29, acted with sudden passion, provoked by police and lacking time for “cool reflection.”

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