Attorneys for the family of Korryn Gaines — the woman fatally shot by a Baltimore County police officer in 2016 — filed court papers Tuesday urging a judge to reject attempts by Baltimore County government to overturn or reduce the jury’s $38 million award in the case.
Gaines’ family lawyers Kenneth W. Ravenell and Leslie D. Hershfield called last month’s award, one of the largest ever against a Baltimore-area police force, a “simple yet powerful verdict of an attentive Jury based on consideration of the evidence.”
Lawyers for the county have argued in post-trial motions that the monetary award for Gaines’ death and for injuries to her young son, Kodi, was based on “guesswork, speculation and sympathy” rather than evidence presented in court. The county filed an appeal as well as motions seeking a new trial, an overturned verdict or a reduction in the award amount.
But attorneys for Kodi said the county simply recycled failed legal arguments in its motions, and urged a judge to reject them.
County police officers went to Gaines’ Randallstown apartment Aug. 1, 2016, to serve warrants on Gaines and her fiance. Gaines, 26, was wanted for failing to appear in court for traffic violations, while her fiance was wanted in connection with an alleged assault. The fiance left the apartment with the couple’s infant daughter, Karsyn, while Gaines holed up in the apartment with Kod, then 5 years old, and a shotgun.
Gaines broadcast parts of the ensuing six-hour standoff on social media before police had her accounts shut down.
At one point Kodi went into the kitchen and Gaines followed. Royce Ruby, a tactical officer who was stationed outside the doorway of the apartment, testified he fired into the apartment and through a wall after seeing the barrel of Gaines’ shotgun raise. Ruby testified he then heard Gaines’ gun fire, entered the apartment and shot Gaines three more times.
Gaines was killed and Kodi was injured when he was struck by two of the bullets.
In the family’s case, a jury of six women was asked to determine whether Ruby’s first shot — which was determined to be fatal — was “reasonable” based on the situation. They found it was not, and said the action amounted to a violation of Gaines’ and Kodi’s civil rights under state and federal statues.
The jury awarded more than $38 million in damages. Most of it, $32.8 million, went to Kodi, while Karsyn was awarded $4.5 million. Smaller amounts went to Gaines’ estate, her mother and her father.
In response to the county’s post-trial motions, Kodi’s lawyers Ravenell and Hershfield derided the county motions as: “Rehash. Rejected. Repeat.”
“Simply stated, the foundation of Defendants’ argument is that they disagree with the Jury’s verdict,” they wrote.
The lawyers said the award to Kodi was based on evidence including testimony from the boy’s doctors, father and grandmothers about his “severe and permanent physical and psychological injuries” — testimony they said was not disputed by the county’s legal counsel during the trial.
“The verdict returned by the Jury was not excessive or inappropriate and… must not not be disturbed,” they wrote.
They noted the trial judge denied multiple motions for a judgment in the county’s favor before and during the trial.
Ravenell and Hershfield also claim the county filed its post-trial motions well past a 10-day deadline, and therefore shouldn’t even be considered. The county filed its motions March 12, which is 10 days after the online Judiciary Case Search shows the judgment was recorded. But Kodi’s lawyers contend the clock started ticking Feb. 22, when they say the judgment was formally recorded at the courthouse. The jury announced its verdict Feb. 16.
Landon White, who represents Gaines’ father, Ryan Gaines, said he was reviewing the filing and deciding whether to make his own reply to the county’s motions. J. Wyndal Gordon, who represents Gaines’ mother, daughter and estate, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Ruby was not criminally charged and was later promoted to corporal.
County officials have said that if the award is upheld, the county will pay the entire amount on behalf of the government and Ruby. Legal analysts have said the case could be tied up in litigation for years.