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Sirens & Gavels

Trial begins in NorthTown Mall molestation case

A Spokane jury will likely decide this week whether a 56-year-old man with a criminal history of indecent acts with minors will spend the rest of his life in prison.

The trial of Richard Payne, accused of inappropriately touching and exposing himself to a five-year-old girl at a NorthTown Mall arcade in June 2012, began today with jury selection in Spokane County Superior Court Judge Kathleen O'Connor's courtroom. The proceedings, expected to last a week or less, have been delayed multiple times by defense motions seeking to suppress comments Payne made to investigators and keep some details of his criminal history from jurors.

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Payne's most recent legal troubles began after approaching a five-year-old girl, visiting Spokane on vacation, at the “Bumpers” arcade in the mall on June 21, 2012. Payne allegedly touched the girl inappropriately and exposed himself, some of which was captured on the arcade's security cameras. The girl notified her older brother and mother, and investigators were able to identify Payne through the registered sex offender database.

During a subsequent interview at his home, Payne made several incriminating statements to officers after waiving his Miranda rights. The defense team tried to get those comments thrown out because they were made under coercion, but O'Connor ruled this month the statements would be admissable at trial.

Defense lawyers also argued that certain details related to a 2001 case in which Payne pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted first-degree child molestation should be kept out of the courtroom. Payne faces life imprisonment because of a provision in Washington state law that identifies certain offenders as persisten when found guilty of a “most serious offense” on subsequent occasions. According to legal definitions, the 2001 incident, in which Payne touched a nine-year-old girl at a discount store while her mother shopped elsewhere, qualifies for consideration of an enhanced sentence.

Because of the similar details in the two cases and the potential sentence enhancement to be considered by the jury, O'Connor deemed that those details, too, would be admissable in court.

Attorneys are expected to make their opening statements in the trial Tuesday.


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