Woman's conviction for raping 16-month-old overturned

LEAVENWORTH — A Leavenworth woman is scheduled to return to court next week after the Kansas Court of Appeals overturned her 2017 conviction for raping a child.

Mahogany Payne, 43, is scheduled to appear Wednesday in Leavenworth County District Court.

Payne was sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 25 years, for raping a 16-month-old child.

The crime is alleged to have occurred Jan. 12, 2016, at Payne’s residence.

A jury convicted Payne of the charge in October 2017. Jurors acquitted her of a second rape charge.

Payne was sentenced in December 2017.

In a decision released in September, the Kansas Court of Appeals reversed the conviction and vacated the sentence. The case has been remanded to District Court for a new trial.

Appellate judges found that the District Court judge who presided over the trial erred by not allowing Payne’s attorney to finish his closing argument.

During his closing argument, Payne’s attorney, Curtis Holmes, reviewed evidence related to the charge for which Payne ultimately was acquitted. He began to focus on the other charge when a prosecutor objected that the defense lawyer’s comments were going beyond the evidence. The objection was sustained by then District Judge Gunnar Sundby.

As he continued, Holmes seemed to recast the same point and drew another objection. Sundby ended up instructing Holmes that he was finished with his closing argument. The defense attorney was told to sit down, according to a summary in the Court of Appeals decision.

In their decision, the appellate judges found that jurors convicted Payne of a charge for which they “effectively heard no closing argument from her lawyer.”