San Francisco, CA — Jurors voted overwhelmingly for acquittal but ultimately deadlocked in the trial of a man accused of killing a sexual partner in 1983, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
Jurors in the trial of William Payne, 48, announced Tuesday afternoon they were deadlocked 9-3 in favor of a not guilty verdict, said Payne’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Kwixuan Maloof. Superior Court Judge Andrew Cheng declared a mistrial.
Motions in Payne’s new trial begin Thursday and opening arguments are scheduled for Oct. 22.
Prosecutors argued that Payne, then 19, strangled 41-year-old Nikolaus Crumbley during a tryst in Crumbley’s car. In 2009, authorities matched Payne’s DNA to samples taken from Crumbley’s body nearly 30 years ago. In January, 2012, Payne was charged with first-degree murder during the course of sodomy.
“Mr. Payne’s murder trial is proof that, despite what we see on television, the presence of DNA does not prove a person is guilty of a crime,” Maloof said. “In this case, it proved only that Mr. Payne and Mr. Crumbley had sex.”
During the three week trial, Payne took the stand and admitted to having sex with Crumbley a single time after the two met in a gay bookstore. Payne testified that he heard about Crumbley’s death at a Castro bar several days later, but did not reveal the tryst to authorities for fear his religious family would learn of his bisexuality.
Crumbley was found dead in McLaren Park with his pants and underwear around his ankles. Forensic testing of his underwear revealed the presence of sperm cells from two unknown men. Rectal swabs revealed sperm cells from Payne and at least one other, unknown man.
Prosecutors argued that Payne was the last person to have sex with Crumbley, and therefore must have killed him. But the government’s own experts gave conflicting answers on how long Payne’s sperm cells had been inside Crumbley’s body based on its level of degradation. Sperm cells can live inside the body for up to three days.
Fingerprints found on Crumbley’s rental car, which was pushed into Oakland’s Lake Merritt, did not match Payne.
Adachi said the case for Payne’s acquittal is extremely strong.
“There is no credible evidence that Mr. Payne did anything beyond having consensual sex with Mr. Crumbly and we are confident we will prove he is not guilty,” Adachi said.