BALTIMORE—The family of Korryn Gaines is still fighting for justice. The young, Black mother was fatally shot by police nearly five years ago and attorneys in her case went back to court recently in the ongoing pursuit of justice.
Korryn Gaines was killed by a Baltimore County police officer nearly five years ago in 2016. Two years later in 2018, a jury awarded her family close to $38 million after finding Cpl. Royce Ruby liable for Ms. Gaines wrongful death and violating both her and her five year old son Kodi’s constitutional rights.
The family has yet to receive the award. The attorneys representing Ms. Gaines and her son went back to court June 30 to fight for the release of the money. They were joined by Rev. Al Sharpton, head of the National Action Network, who has committed his time and attention to this case.
“I want to be real clear about the judge and those in this courthouse. I am here for this mother and this child. I am not here for politics and I am not here for gain,” Rev. Sharpton told the crowd outside the courthouse of nearly 100 supporters.
“It does not take five years to understand what you have done with this family. This family is hurting. You are sitting in the courtroom arguing about your schedule, when is justice on the schedule?” he asked.
When the police arrived in 2016 to serve arrest warrants to Ms. Gaines, 23, for a traffic violation and to Kareem Kiean Courtney, 39, for a second-degree assault charge, they negotiated unsuccessfully for six hours.
The police decided to go in even though Rhanda Dormeus, Ms. Gaines’ mother, was outside the building telling police her daughter suffered from post-partum depression and desperately needed to speak with her therapist.
That advice was ignored, and the police went in. They reported Ms. Gaines raised her legally obtained shotgun and threatened them. An officer fired and Ms. Gaines returned fire missing police. Cpl. Ruby then fired three rounds killing Ms. Gaines and hitting five-year-old son Kodi in the elbow and cheek. In Cpl. Ruby’s sworn testimony, he stated he was aiming for Ms. Gaines’ head.
Instead of honoring the jury’s wrongful death award, County Executive Johnny Olszewski continues to defend Cpl. Ruby’s actions in court.
“They don’t want to pay the money that the jury has properly awarded Kodi Gaines,” Attorney Kenneth Ravenell, who represents Ms. Gaines’ son, told The Final Call. “They don’t want to pay. They’re looking for this judge to violate his (Kodi’s) rights again.”
In 2018 a jury trial awarded the family $38 million. Kodi Gaines was awarded $32.85 million and an additional $23,542 for his medical expenses. The boy’s cheek wound was superficial but his elbow injury required reconstructive surgery. And $4.53 million was awarded to Ms. Gaines’ daughter, Karsyn Courtney, according to court records. The jury also awarded $307,000 to her mother; $300,000 to her father; and $300,000 to the Gaines’ estates.
However, a year later, Baltimore County Circuit Court Associate Judge Mickey J. Norman reversed that judgment. He wrote that Cpl. Royce Ruby was “entitled to qualified immunity.” The states’ appeals court reversed that decision saying the judge acted improperly.
The case is now before the same trial judge who reversed the jury’s award to determine when the parties will submit their briefs to the county executive to argue why the family should receive the award.
“We continue to put pressure on the county to resolve this matter. We have to spend more energy, do more briefings, and do more arguing,” Korryn Gaines’ attorney J. Wyndal Gordon told The Final Call. “The county continues to defend and protect this monster.”
The local chapter of the National Action Network (NAN) hosted a rally outside the courtroom after the hearing.
“Baltimore county has put my healing process on hold. It has not allowed me to move forward in my life emotionally, psychologically, which all affects my physical,” Ms. Dormeus told the crowd. “We don’t know why we’re here. The public was not privy to the specifics, but the jury made it very clear when they brought down a $38 million judgment against the county because they heard everything.”
The Baltimore County executive’s office released a statement saying: “This administration inherited the case following the tragic death of Ms. Gaines, and our focus now is on doing right by the family of Ms. Gaines and, in particular, her children. After years in court, the county made a significant offer to resolve this matter, which reflects the highest amount we believe the court may award under the law.”
That undisclosed amount was rejected by the lawyers. “It was almost insulting,” Atty. Gordon said. “When they produce a serious offer, we’re willing to negotiate.”
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals issued a 77-page opinion in their determination that the judge was wrong to overturn the verdict. That opinion, however, has led to more litigation over whether the appeals court reinstated all or just some of the multi-million-dollar verdict. That’s the undecided issue that the lawyers are arguing. The next step is a possible fall court date.
“This is a civil rights case of our time. Towson, Maryland is ground zero for police reform,” Atty. Gordon said. “What happened to Korryn Gaines was a homicide, plain and simple.”