Summary Judgment Granted on Appeal in Ayers Civil Suit

A federal court of appeals has overruled a previous judge, granting additional summary judgments to Stephens County Sheriff Randy Shirley and Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell in the civil suit over the death of Lavonia pastor the Rev. Jonathan Ayers.

In a recent court ruling, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals granted a summary judgment to Sheriffs Shirley and Terrell on a failure to train claim made in the lawsuit by the widow of the Rev. Ayers, Abigail Ayers.

That overrules a decision made previously by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Story and comes following an appeal made by Shirley and Terrell last year.

The Court of Appeals did affirm the District Court’s denial of summary judgment for Officer Billy Shane Harrison on claims of false arrest, assault and battery, and excessive force.

Harrison is the agent who shot the Rev. Ayers in the parking lot of a Toccoa gas station in September 2009.

Judge Story had granted a summary judgment to the defendants previously on all other claims last year.

A summary judgment means that a determination is made by a court without a full trial.

Abigail Ayers filed a wrongful death lawsuit in March 2010 seeking at least $5 million against the Mountain Judicial Circuit NCIS Team, and drug team officers Kyle Bryant, Chance Oxner, and Billy Shane Harrison, Stephens County Sheriff Randy Shirley as a defendant, both individually and in his official capacity, as well as Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell.

In December 2009, a Stephens County grand jury cleared agent Harrison of wrongdoing in the shooting; stating the use of deadly force was “legally justifiable” because agent Harrison feared for the safety of agent Oxner.