AUSTIN (KXAN) — A federal judge will consider lowering the amount of money awarded to the family of a man shot and killed by Austin Police Department officers.
In December, a jury found APD’s Richard Egal and Maxwell Johnson used excessive force on Landon Nobles, 24, after chasing him on Sixth Street and shooting him in the back in 2017. The jury recommended the defendants pay a total of $67 million in damages to be split among Nobles’ mother and the mothers of his two children.
After the verdict, Judge Mark Lane called the amount “wildly excessive” — a statement he reiterated in a hearing Wednesday — and tasked the parties with coming to an agreement on a lower dollar amount. That mediation failed.
Attorneys for Egal and Maxwell had asked Judge Lane to consider “remittitur,” which is a ruling by a judge lowering the amount of damages granted by a jury in a civil case. He suggested the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals could reduce the amount, if the verdict is appealed.
Edmund “Skip” Davis, attorney for Nobles family, said the amount was “breathtaking” but noted the jury arrived at that amount by looking at the evidence from trial.
“I think the amount matches the evidence,” he said.
Davis went on to call the amount, the “cost of the weight of the salt in a mother’s tears.”
Judge Lane and Davis went back and forth about how to apply what’s called the Maximum Recovery Rule, which measures damage amounts proportionally against other factually similar cases from the same jurisdiction. Lane remarked on the lack of clear guidance from previous, similar cases.
The judge said he was struggling to find evidence in this case supporting the $67 million amount, but he added, “there’s no question people miss the man.”
The family filed the civil lawsuit against APD and the officers in May 2018. They said new evidence showed Nobles did not turn and fire a gun at officers first, which APD had previously stated. The attorneys for the family collected statements from witnesses, who said they did not see Nobles pull out a gun.
Several members of Nobles’ family, including his young children, sat through Wednesday’s hearing. His uncle, Archie Kelly, expressed frustration about the proceedings.
“I don’t agree sometimes how the court rules — the rich gets richer and the poor get poorer,” he told KXAN. “If it is a person who had not been well off, then they want to push it under the rug which is not fair.”
Both Davis and the officers’ attorneys presented cases to Judge Lane for review they believed to be similar. The judge said he would try to return a decision within 30 days.
KXAN’s investigative intern Sam Stark contributed to this report.