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Judge: No new trial for family of man killed by SAPD officer

'Jury's verdict was not against the great weight of the evidence'

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SAN ANTONIO – A federal judge denied a request for a new trial filed by the family of a man killed by a San Antonio police officer, saying "the jury's verdict was not against the great weight of the evidence."

Marquise Jones was shot in the back while running from San Antonio Police Department Officer Robert Encina in February 2014. Jones was a passenger in a car that was involved in a minor accident in the drive-thru of Chacho's and Chalucci's off Perrin Beitel. Encina said Jones ran from the car and had a gun. Encina said he feared for his safety and shot Jones, killing him.

In April, a jury sided against the Jones family. They filed a request for a new trial with an 11-page motion calling the April 6 jury verdict "contrary to the great weight of the evidence."

One of the issues they challenged was a jury instruction on the verdict form. It said:

Do you find that plaintiffs have proven by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendant Robert Encina used excessive and unnecessary deadly force, in violation of Marquis Jones' federal constitutional rights, pursuant to my instructions regarding COUNT 1: EXCESSIVE AND DEADLY FORCE BY ROBERT ENCINA

The jury answered no, so they did not have to answer a second question on the verdict form as to whether the amount of force used was "reasonable and necessary."

In May, attorneys for the city and Encina called the question about whether Encina's conduct was "objectively reasonable" "flatly false."

"Plaintiffs should have sought summary judgment or moved for a directed verdict when the Defendants closed. But the jury heard and weighed the evidence, resolved witness credibility and returned a verdict," the motion filed by the city said. "New trial is not warranted simply because the jury gave an answer that did not harmonize with the Plaintiffs' narrative."

Judge Royce Lamberth rejected the request for new trial this week.

"In the end, the jury weighed the evidence, assessed the credibility of the witnesses, and believed the defendants over the plaintiffs. Based on the evidence presented by the defendants, particularly the testimony surrounding the presence of a gun, the jury had ample support for a verdict in favor of the defendants. To find otherwise, one would have to credit the plaintiffs' evidence and discount the defendants' evidence," Lamberth wrote. "For this Court to decide that the jury 'got it wrong,' it would have to invade the fact-finding province of the jury and decide that Marquise Jones did not have a gun and no gun was recovered at the scene. The jury decided the opposite based on competent and admissible trial evidence. This Court declines to substitute its own opinions for those properly decided by the jury here."