$2.3 Million Judgement In Excessive Force Case


On February 20, 2014, a jury in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Gainesville returned a verdict for Abigail Marilyn Ayers as the Surviving Spouse and Administratrix of the Estate of Jonathan Paul Ayers, her late husband, against Billy Shane Harrison in the amount of $2.3 million. The jury specifically found that Defendant Harrison intentionally committed acts that violated Jonathan Ayers’ constitutional rights not to be subjected to excessive or unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer. The facts of this case involved Reverend Jonathan Ayers who had committed no crime being shot to death on September 1, 2009 in broad daylight in a crowded parking lot of a Shell Station located in downtown Toccoa, Georgia. Billy Shane Harrison, an undercover officer for the Mountain Judicial Circuit Criminal Investigation and Suppression Team Task Force dressed to conceal his identity, had exited an unmarked Cadillac Escalade and, displaying his gun, hurriedly approached the vehicle of Reverend Ayers.

A number of witnesses testified they felt Ayers was being robbed or carjacked. Ayers attempted to escape the perceived peril, and it was then that Harrison fired shots through the passenger side door and the windshield of Reverend Ayers’ automobile. The shot through the windshield ultimately tore into Reverend Ayers and virtually destroyed his liver. Reverend Ayers bled to death several hours later while being treated at the Stephens County Hospital.

To attempt to explain the shooting, Billy Shane Harrison contended he was acting in self defense, claiming he thought Reverend Ayers was trying to run over him. The trial lasted 8 ½ days in Federal Court in Gainesville, Georgia with the jury rejecting Harrison’s self-defense assertions and specifically finding that Harrison had employed excessive and unreasonable force. The total amount of the verdict including medical expenses and burial expenses slightly exceeded $2.3 million dollars. A hearing is expected within the next 30 to 45 days at which time the plaintiff’s attorneys will seek an additional award of Mrs. Ayers’
attorney fees.

Abigail Ayers has expressed her relief and gratitude that the jury determined her husband’s life had been wrongfully taken. Mrs. Ayers was represented in her case by Richard Hendrix and his partners, Steve Wisebram and Michael Sullivan of the firm Finch McCranie, LLP of Atlanta and Roland Stroberg of the law firm of Myers & Stroberg, LLP in Gainesville, Georgia.

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About Richard Hendrix

Richard W. Hendrix is a former state and federal prosecutor who has more than 30 years of experience in complex civil and criminal litigation. He has also served as a mediator in Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR).

Since joining Finch McCranie in 1985, Mr. Hendrix has built an extensive litigation practice focusing on wrongful death and serious personal injury cases as well as federal white collar criminal defense cases. He has successfully represented injured parties in personal injury cases throughout the state of Georgia. Mr. Hendrix has also effectively defended business and individuals, including a former US Congressman, against indictments and grand jury investigations. In 2006 and 2008-2012, he was selected to Georgia Super Lawyers.

He is admitted to practice in Georgia and South Carolina. Mr. Hendrix is licensed to appear before the United State District Court for the Northern District of Georgia and the District of South Carolina as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Fifth Circuit, and Eleventh Circuit.

From 1979-1985, Mr. Hendrix served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. He was also Associate Independent Counsel for the investigation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1991-1992.

Mr. Hendrix graduated with cum laude honors from Davidson College and he received his law degree from Emory University. Since 1992, Mr. Hendrix has been an Adjunct Professor of Litigation at Georgia State University College of Law. He is also a Master of the Bench with the Lamar American Inn of Court where he works to enhance the professional, ethics and skills of the legal community.

Mr. Hendrix has authored numerous articles including: “Tolling the Statute of Limitations in Tort Cases for Victims of a Crime,” The Verdict (Fall, 2007); “A Refresher On the Federal Tort Claims Act,” The Verdict (Winter, 1999); “Rule 16 and the Jencks Act: A Need for Legal Reform,” Calendar Call (Winter, 1996); “Corporate Criminal Liability: The Need for Effective Compliance Programs,” South Carolina Lawyer (March/April, 1993); “Crossing State Lines in Wrongful Death Actions: Traps for the Unwary,” The Verdict (Fall, 1990); and “White Collar Crime: New Tools for Prosecution,” The Atlanta Lawyer (Summer, 1986)