Judge Reduces St. Paul’s Record Jury Award in Excessive Force Case, Cuts $10 Million to $2.5 Million

Minneapolis, MN – A federal judge has reduced the record jury award given to the family of Cordale Handy, a man fatally shot by St. Paul police in 2017. The award, initially set at $10 million in compensatory damages, has been decreased to $2.5 million after the city of St. Paul appealed the decision. U.S. District Judge David Doty described the original award as “patently excessive” and argued that it did not align with the limited evidence presented during the trial.

Handy, who was under the influence of bath salts at the time of the incident, sustained multiple gunshot wounds during the encounter. Officer Nathaniel Younce, the shooter, was found to have used excessive force by a federal jury. Officer Mikko Norman, who also fired his weapon but was not held liable, was present during the incident but did not face the same conclusion.

The jury arrived at their decision in August of last year, ordering the city to pay $1.5 million in punitive damages in addition to the compensatory damages. They took into account Handy’s past and potential future financial contributions to his family. However, the court found no evidence of his income or financial support for his family during the trial.

In his ruling on the appeal, Judge Doty acknowledged Handy’s importance to his family and the emotional impact of his loss. While the city had requested a further reduction to $1 million, Doty settled on the $2.5 million figure, stating that it was consistent with the law, albeit larger than awards in comparable cases.

The city also asked for a new trial, claiming that the jury’s verdict was inconsistent by finding Younce solely responsible without holding Norman civilly liable. However, Judge Doty disagreed, noting that the separate conclusions were not necessarily contradictory.

Handy’s mother, Kimberly Handy-Jones, who has until March 1 to decide whether to accept the reduced award or request a new trial, expressed her dissatisfaction with the outcome. She emphasized the importance of seeking justice and voiced her concern that the court’s decision undervalued the life of a young Black man.

In a separate settlement, the St. Paul City Council approved a $380,000 payout to Handy’s fiancĂ©e, Markeeta Johnson-Blakney. She had sued the officers and city, alleging unlawful imprisonment after being held in a squad car for several hours following Handy’s death. The council is also considering a resolution in another related case filed by witness Jill Mollner, who was similarly detained against her will during the incident.

Handy-Jones has established a foundation in her son’s name to assist other mothers who have lost children due to police misconduct. The city of St. Paul is still reviewing the judge’s latest decision and will determine their next course of action in the upcoming weeks, according to Kamal Baker, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office.