Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael ruled Monday that former state lawmaker Steve Nunn is liable for $20 million in punitive damages and $3,827,968.97 in compensatory damages for causing the death of Amanda Ross.
Overall, Ishmael said Ross's estate is due $4,253,298.00 in compensatory damages. Nunn is expected to foot the majority of that bill; Opera House Square Townhouse Association, the gated community in downtown Lexington where Amanda Ross, 28, was shot to death in 2009, was liable for ten percent of the compensatory damages. An out-of-court settlement was reached in the civil lawsuit between Diana Ross and the townhouse association last week. That amount was kept confidential.
Included in Monday's award was the loss of what Amanda Ross would have been capable of earning over her lifetime. For that, Ishmael awarded the estate more than $3 million. Before making the ruling, Ishmael told Diana Ross that he was sorry for her loss.
"No matter what I order, nothing can bring Ms. Ross back," said Ishmael. "I wish that I could enter an order to that effect."
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The judge awarded Amanda Ross's estate more than $23,000 in medical expenses that she incurred after being shot and more than $27,000 in funeral expenses.
"Diana and Amanda's family are very pleased with the court's decision," Diana Ross's attorney Lucy Pett said after the hearing.
Nunn, 60, the son of former Gov. Louie B. Nunn, is serving life without parole in a state prison in Muhlenberg County. He pleaded guilty in June 2011 to first-degree murder with an aggravating circumstance.
Nunn did not appear at Monday's hearing.
In the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Ross's mother, Diana Ross, Ishmael ruled in 2012 that Nunn was liable, setting the stage for Monday's hearing.
Ishmael issued the ruling after listening to more than four hours of testimony in the hearing in Fayette Circuit Court. There was no jury.
Transylvania University Professor William Baldwin testified that if Amanda Ross had kept her state job for the rest of her working life, Amanda Ross would have accumulated more than $3 million in her lifetime.
Ishmael awarded the estate $1 million for Ross's pain and suffering before and during the shooting. Dr. Cristin Rolf, who performed the autopsy for the state medical examiner's office in Frankfort, testified that Ross received wounds and abrasions possibly indicative of a struggle in addition to the gunshot wounds.
Testimony came from Amanda Ross's neighbors, who heard high pitched screams and gunshots on the morning of Sept. 11, 2009.
Ross's neighbor Carl Schreiber testified that he heard four or five gunshots, screams and Ross saying something to the effect of "No, no, Don't do it!"
Lexington Fire Captain Les Fryman said Amanda Ross was not breathing when paramedics arrived, but she had a heart rhythm.
Lexington police detective Todd Iddings told Ishmael that Ross successfully obtained a domestic violence order against Nunn, and she was carrying the order in her purse, along with a gun that she had legally obtained, when she died.
Ishmael listened to a 911 call from earlier in 2009 when Ross called authorities and told them that Steve Nunn had struck her three times in the face and broken a lamp.
Kentucky Department of Insurance Commissioner Sharon Clark, Amanda Ross's boss, said that Ross told her that Nunn, angry that he had lost his job as a top official in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, would kill her no matter what she did to protect herself.
Diana Ross said that Amanda Ross did not want Nunn to lose his job after the domestic violence episode. Amanda Ross just wanted Steve Nunn to stay away from her because "she was terrified of him," Diana Ross testified.
"This was an intentional killing, an assassination, an ambush," Pett told Ishmael. "It was the worst conduct imaginable and should be punished accordingly.
"He was a person of privilege and opportunity. He was the deputy secretary for the Health and Family Services Cabinet. He was charged with protecting children and vulnerable adults and I think that makes his conduct that much more reprehensible," said Pett. "He was an abusive person. He stalked her. He would not stay away from her. She did everything she could to protect herself. But she could not protect herself, could not protect herself in the end."
Asked after the hearing how an imprisoned Steve Nunn was going to pay the damages that the judge had ordered, Pett said, "That will be the next question for us to answer, for him to answer."