Federal judge upholds convictions for 'serial rapist'

2 convictions held for 'serial rapist'

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - An accused serial rapist from Kent County who had two of his 2007 convictions overturned has lost a bid to get two other convictions tossed out.

Investigators say they believe Scott Gordon Payne was responsible for several sexual assaults in Grand Rapids and Wyoming, starting in 1989.

He was convicted in four cases and acquitted in a fifth. A Kent County judge sentenced Payne to life in prison.

Two of the convictions were overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals. When the Michigan Supreme Court opted not to look at the other cases, Payne took his fight to federal court.

In a 46-page ruling this week, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Maloney refused to overturn convictions in the two other cases; one involving a woman raped at a Wyoming baseball field in 1989 and the other involving the assault of a prostitute in Grand Rapids.

In the 1989 case, a 44-year-old woman was crossing a baseball field on her way home when a man grabbed her, beat her and told her she was going to die, court records show. The woman’s wrists were tied with shoelaces and she was sexually assaulted multiple times. During trial, she identified Payne as her attacker.

The second conviction was for a May, 2004 assault on a woman who was working as a prostitute in Grand Rapids. After agreeing on a price for sex, Payne began choking the woman and ordered her to empty her pockets, court records show. After being raped, the woman was pushed out of Payne’s vehicle. She identified Payne as her assailant.

Convictions on the two other cases were overturned because the expert who tested DNA evidence used at trial did not testify, depriving Payne’s defense lawyer a chance to cross-examine.

“After reviewing the record, we are compelled to conclude that the improperly-admitted laboratory reports were decisive to the outcome,’’ the Court of Appeals wrote in its July, 2009 decision.

But the two other convictions, Maloney said, are solid.

“There was no constitutional error because the laboratory reports were prepared by analysts who testified at trial,’’ Maloney wrote, noting that both victims also identified Payne as the assailant.

Now 47, Payne is serving a life term at Chippewa Correctional Facility in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He also served time in federal prison for a bank robbery in Missouri.

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