A Pine Belt man, who admitted to the jury he is a convicted felon, on trial for rape and kidnapping acted as his own attorney in his trial versus the state of Mississippi on Tuesday in Lamar County.
Howard "Lil Dank" Payton, was indicted for three counts of rape and one count of kidnapping in connection to a 2010 Lamar County incident.
The state addressed the jury with opening remarks, as Payton looked on flanked by a pair of legal advisers acting as support to his defense.
The stage was set as a night described as fun with friends that turned into a nightmare for one woman.
"A man came up to her, put a knife to her throat, forced her in to her car, and took control over the (victim)," 15th Circuit Court District, Assistant District Attorney Lauren Harless said.
"He holds her head down as he drives off in her car and makes her perform oral sex on him in the car," Harless said.
From there, Payton allegedly drives the car to Water Tank Road, a remote location in Lamar County, but still within the city limits of Hattiesburg.
According to Harless, Payton stopped the car, made her (the victim) get out, put her against the hood of her car and raped her in multiple ways.
"Howard Payton is the victim’s worse nightmares come true," Harless said.
Payton took the floor to address the jury for his portion of opening remarks.
"You are going to hear a lot of things that (Harless) said, that isn't true," Payton said. "I'm also a convicted felon, for previous drug charges, you weren't going to hear that either."
Payton referenced the lack of DNA experts to be used in his case.
The state then called its first witness, which was former Hattiesburg Police Capt. Peggy Sealy.
Sealy testified to the night of the crime, where officers Deen and Miller both worked closely with the case in interviewing the victim as well as locating the actual crime scene.
Payton was later found by authorities.
"He denied any account of the rape and all, and he said he was incarcerated in the Forrest County Jail at that time," Sealy said. "Following up with the jail, he was not incarcerated at the time."
The victim was later showed a photo lineup of six possible suspects.
"When we showed the victim the lineup, she pointed out three and five, one of which is Howard Payton," Sealy said.
Sealy was also questioned regarding DNA evidence taken from Payton in the course of the investigation.
Payton then took over for cross examination, and requested a pair of interviews be played containing the victim’s statements and his.
One interview showed the victim being interviewed by Capt. Peggy Sealy.
She detailed facts about the crime, from how (Payton) held her head down, to perform oral sex, to the multiple ways she was raped.
The other showed Payton being interviewed by detectives.
"I didn't rape anybody," Payton said.
Detectives asked Payton multiple questions; he sat in silence and stared at them.
The video with Payton also showed the jury into a little bit of his past, including a previous murder case he was involved in, as well as another rape case.
Payton did submit to give a DNA test on video and had multiple swabs taken from his mouth. He also signed his consent saying no lawyer had to be present, according to the tape.
Payton spent his cross examination with Sealy questioning how reports are taken, which officer gets to handle cases and the phone number the victim gave officers for them to make contact after the initial interview.
At one point, Judge Anthony Mozingo intervened during Payton's cross examination.
"...to avoid wasted time, not to limit the scope of questioning but to keep it relevant," said Mozingo. "There is no use in this needless waste of time."
Around the four-hour mark, the witness was dismissed.
The state then called Dominek Bridges to the stand.
Bridges was driving along the road that night when she was flagged down by the victim.
"Saying it was a man that attacked her," Bridges said.
She was dismissed and state then called LaSone Adjei as next witness.
Adjei was also with Bridges, and testified to picking her up and taking her to Forrest General Hospital as well as calling the police.
She was questioned why she stopped in middle of the night.
"If it were one of my daughters, I would want someone to help them," Adjei said.
Adjei said (the victim) had on a white t-shirt and some shorts and had blood and scratches on her, and she was crying.
"She said that she was held with a knife and raped," Adjei said.
The state then called Forrest General Register Nurse Emily Gillespie.
"She was disheveled, her clothing was on backwards and she was carrying her leggings," Gillespie said. “She described the man who attacked her as roughly 6'5, with a gold tooth or teeth in his mouth, and a low hair cut and held a box cutter to her neck.”
Gillespie took the victims statements and history and performed a rape kit and kept it in her custody until turning it over to the Hattiesburg Police Department.
Payton cross examined Gillespie and asked was she coached before testifying, as well as questioned the methods used during the completing of the rape kit.
The states next witnesses to be called were Forrest-Perry County District Attorney Criminal Investigator Steve Pazos and HPD Crime Scene Technician Denise Ruple.
Both covered aspects of the case that they dealt with as a part of the HPD.
Testimony ended Tuesday with Rulple, and will continue Wednesday morning.
A Pine Belt man’s rape and kidnapping trail is underway in Lamar County.More >>