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Jury selected in Payne murder trial

Citizen Staff Writer



A jury of seven men and nine women, including alternates, was chosen Tuesday in the capital murder case of Christopher Mathew Payne, 30, who is accused of killing his two young children.

Opening statements are expected Wednesday morning, with the state’s testimony to follow.

Payne was arrested after the decomposing body of his daughter, Ariana Payne, 4, was found in a North Side storage locker Feb. 18, 2007. The body of his son Tyler, 5, has not been found.

If he’s convicted of first-degree murder, prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors estimate they may finish their case by March 6.

Jamie Hallam, the children’s mother, may testify Thursday.

Reina Irene Gonzales, Payne’s former live-in girlfriend and the mother of his surviving child, may testify next Tuesday.

Defense attorneys expect to call a handful of witnesses.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard S. Fields on Tuesday ruled jurors will get to hear evidence of Payne’s past drug use. Prosecutors say that Payne was so addicted to drugs that he spent all his money on them and let his children starve.

If Payne is convicted of first-degree murder, prosecutors will ask jurors to find aggravating factors exist that call for the death penalty.

Prosecutors say more than one murder conviction; that the victims were minors and Payne is an adult; and the cruel, heinous or depraved way the children were killed would call for death. Jurors need only find one of those factors exist to qualify Payne for the death penalty.

If jurors find Payne eligible for the death penalty, defense attorneys will present evidence and testimony they hope will persuade jurors to choose a life sentence over the death penalty.

In Arizona, only jurors can sentence Payne to death.

If they don’t choose death, Fields will decide later whether to impose life without parole or life with parole possible after 25 years.

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