International Jewel Thief in San Diego Court

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    NBCSanDiego

    Trial began Tuesday in San Diego Superior Court for a woman known as an international jewel thief.

    Doris Payne, 80, is accused of stealing an $8,000 diamond ring from a Macy's in Mission Valley last January.

    Ask Payne about her past and she’ll gladly tell you about her life’s work -- what she describes as a crime spree spanning 50 years.

    International Jewel Thief in San Diego Court

    [DGO] International Jewel Thief in San Diego Court
    Doris Payne's life will soon be the focus of a new movie starring Halle Berry.

    “I was just a young woman who had made a decision to step outside the law,“ Payne said. “I had decided to steal jewelry.”

    Payne said she would simply put a ring on her finger and walk out.

    "I have never in my life been stupid enough to steal something and put it in my pocket,” said Payne. “What defense do I have if they stop me going out the door?”

    While Payne wouldn't talk about the current case on the advice of her attorney, she did explain how she got away with so many crimes in her life.

    "If you forgot I had it and it's yours, you can't do any more to me,” she explained. "I forgot I had it on my hand.”

    Actress Halle Berry plays Payne in an upcoming movie, “Who is Doris Payne?” The renowned thief said the two haven’t met.

    Raised in West Virginia, Payne chose a profession that took her to Monaco, Monte Carlo and Paris, where she spent time "shopping" in Tiffany's and Cartier's shops, according to Matthew Pond, a documentary filmmaker who has been following Payne for several months.

    “She’s a fascinating character,” Pond said. “Her story is a great story and she’s a great character.”

    She’s been arrested more times than she can remember. One detective said her arrest report is more than 6-feet long -- she’s done time in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Colorado and Wisconsin.

    The most time she ever served was in Colorado, where she did almost five years in prison for swiping a diamond ring from a Neiman Marcus store in 1998. Payne had seen the $57,000 gem in Town & Country. She wanted it. And she got it.

    Payne faces two felony theft charges in San Diego.   If convicted, she could get a maximum of five years in prison.

    Jury selection begins Wednesday morning.