A Baltimore County judge on Thursday overturned a jury decision that granted $38 million to the family of a 23-year-old woman who was killed by police in 2016.
Judge Mickey J. Norman dismissed claims from Korryn Gaines’s family against Baltimore County and the officer involved, saying he believed the “non-economic damages awarded to the various Plaintiffs are excessive and shocks the conscience.”
J. Wyndal Gordon, an attorney for Gaines’s family, told The Baltimore Sun his clients intend to appeal the ruling.
“It’s devastating to a certain extent, but they’re a very faithful family,” he said. “It’s not over.”
The ruling from Norman, a former state trooper, comes nearly a year after a jury awarded the money to Gaines's family.
The jury found that a shot fired by Cpl. Royce Ruby that killed Gaines and injured her 5-year-old son, Kodi Gaines, was not reasonable and violated their civil rights.
Norman ruled that Ruby should be granted qualified immunity, which protects law enforcement officers from civil liability while in the line of duty.
The shooting took place during a standoff at Korryn Gaines’s apartment. Norman wrote that Gaines, who was armed with a shotgun, “abruptly moved from a place plainly visible in the living room to partial concealment behind a kitchen wall.”
“The physical evidence is that she began to raise the shotgun, Corporal Ruby believed she was about to fire the shotgun,” he added. “Corporal Ruby was not required to be absolutely sure of the nature and extent of the threat Gaines posed.”
Police were at Gaines’s residence to serve warrants to her and her fiance. Gaines was wanted for allegedly failing to appear in court for charges related to a traffic stop.
Gaines’s family filed a civil lawsuit after State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger declared the shooting justified and declined to bring criminal charges. At the trial, Gordon said police knew Gaines had a mental illness.
Jurors in the civil case awarded Gaines's son more than $32 million, and her daughter $4.5 million in damages, while Gaines’s parents and her estate were given smaller amounts.
Norman also vacated the jury’s verdict that Ruby committed battery against Kodi Gaines, writing "That injury was unintentional and was the unforeseen consequences (sic) of Corporal Ruby’s lawful act.”
“Justice was not done today,” Kenneth Ravenell, who represents Kodi Gaines, said in a statement to the Sun. “We will appeal on behalf of young Kodi Gaines. We will have more to say in the near future.”