DNA evidence fails to convince jury of man’s guilt in 1983 killing

Courtesy PhotoDespite DNA evidence linking him to the victim

A retrial is expected in a San Francisco cold case murder in which DNA evidence failed to lead to a conviction Tuesday.

Just three of the 12 jurors believed there was enough evidence — even after matching DNA samples — to convict 48-year-old William Payne of strangling to death 41-year-old Nikolaus Crumbley while raping him in a car in John McLaren Park on Nov. 16, 1983.

On Wednesday, Deputy Public Defender Kwixuan Maloof, who represents Payne, said the hung jury proves that “despite what we see on television, the presence of DNA does not prove a person is guilty of a crime.”

But prosecutors appear determined to prove otherwise. Motions in Payne’s retrial begin today, the Public Defender’s Office said, with opening arguments scheduled for Oct. 22.

“DNA evidence and independent corroborating testimony linked the defendant to the brutal rape and murder of Mr. Crumbely,” District Attorney George Gascón said following Tuesday’s outcome.

Payne was 19 years old when Crumbley’s body was found facedown at the intersection of John Shelley Drive and Mansell Street. Prosecutors said Crumbley’s pants and underwear were pulled down to his ankles.

Prosecutors believe Payne killed Crumbley while the two were having sex in Crumbley’s rental car, which was later found in Oakland’s Lake Merritt.

Three years ago, cold case investigators tied DNA found in Crumbley’s rectum to Payne, whose DNA had been entered in a criminal database after he assaulted a woman in 1984.

In January, Payne was charged with first-degree murder during the course of sodomy.

But the DNA evidence wasn’t enough to convince nine jurors of Payne’s guilt.

“In this case, it proved only that Mr. Payne and Mr. Crumbley had sex,” Maloof said.

During the monthlong trial, Maloof argued that the DNA evidence proved the semen had been present at least 24 hours before Crumbley’s death. He pointed out that DNA not matching Payne’s also was found.

Maloof said he is confident the evidence will ultimately lead to Payne’s acquittal.

ccopeland@sfexaminer.com

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