Eric Jerome Payne Rejects Informal Plea in Connection with Murder of Charles Hicks

Eric Jerome Payne appeared before Judge Robert Morin Thursday and rejected an informal plea offer from prosecutors for his role in the June 2011 stabbing death of Charles Hicks.

Payne is charged with first-degree murder in connection with Hicks’ death.

Co-defendant Terrance McNeal pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter in his case in November.

The informal plea offer, which Payne rejected Thursday, would have required him to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter while unarmed. In exchange, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Leibman said they would push for a sentence of around four years in prison – at the low end of sentencing guidelines.

In his plea, McNeal told prosecutors that around 1:30 a.m. on June 19, 2011, Hicks and McNeal were arguing in the 2600 block of Douglas Road Southeast. Payne and several others were there as well. After a few minutes of arguing, McNeal began to beat Hicks with his hands, but then drew a knife and stabbed him multiple times. Documents say that as McNeal was stabbing Hicks, Payne punched and kicked him.

Payne, McNeal, and three women then fled the scene in a vehicle, according to plea documents.

Hicks died at the hospital two hours later; he had been stabbed eight times.

McNeal had been charged with second-degree murder, but pled guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter; the plea agreement does not require McNeal to testify against Payne.

McNeal was sentenced earlier this month to 12 and a half years in prison for his involvement in Hicks’ murder.

If a jury convicts Payne on the first-degree murder charge, he faces a mandatory sentence of at least 30 years in prison.

Payne’s trial is scheduled for April 29. A trial readiness hearing is scheduled for April 12.

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