GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – A Surry County man serving a life sentence for second-degree murder is being considered for release from prison.

The North Carolina Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission announced Thursday that it was taking up the case of James Payne, who was convicted in 1983 for being part of a beating death.


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James Payne (NC DPS)

Payne, now 60, was one of four men convicted in Surry County Superior Court for beating to death a grocery-store clerk in Dobson they were trying to rob on Sept. 30, 1982. He was convicted 11 months later, on Aug. 30.

In addition to the life sentence for second-degree murder, Payne completed 13 months of a 2-year concurrent sentence for misdemeanor breaking and entering, but he faces 10-year consecutive sentences for common law robbery and conspiracy to commit common law robbery.

Earlier that year, he had been sentenced to 2 years for assault on a female in March 1982. He served 15 months of that sentence concurrently.

One of the other men, Andre McLeod, facing almost identical charges as Payne, was released on May 24, 2008, the Mount Airy News reported. He completed his parole in 2013, the state offender database says.

The details of the crime are unknown as are the names of the other two defendants.

North Carolina abolished parole in cases involving murder and rape as of Oct. 1, 1994, and the commission is charged with considering parole for offenders who were sentenced under guidelines before that date.

Payne is being considered for release through the commission’s Mutual Agreement Parole Program, which is a scholastic and vocational process that is completed and reviewed in a three-way agreement among the commission, the Division of Prisons and the offender.

The MAPP program includes a strict protocol that can take years to complete and review. The commission also will collect and consider comments by people who are for or against the release, facts about the case and other input.

The MAPP program

To be part of the MAPP program, an inmate must show a desire to improve through educational and training programs. There is a 3-year walk-up to release that, the MAPP website states, requires the inmate:

  • To be in medium or minimum custody.
  • Not to be subject to a detainer or pending court action that could result in further confinement.
  • To be infraction-free for a period of 90 days before being recommended.
  • If sentenced under the Fair Sentencing Act, to be eligible for 270-day parole or community-service parole.

The program also stipulates that “there should be a recognizable need on the part of the inmate for involvement in the MAPP program and the inmate should express a desire to participate in improving educational achievements, learning skills, personal growth programs and modifying specific behavior.”

Payne most recently has been housed in the Forsyth Correctional Center in Winston-Salem, and he has had 63 infractions, although none since 2020. They include several for sexual acts, disobeying orders, substance possession, fighting and unspecified attempted offenses.

If you have questions or want to comment, you can contact the commission at 919-716-3010.