By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — After 90 minutes of deliberation, a jury ruled in favor of all of the defendants in a lawsuit stemming from a shooting death that occurred in 2014.
Plaintiffs Atta and Larry Helman filed a lawsuit for damages resulting from Gary Helman’s death. Gary, Atta’s son and Larry’s twin brother, was shot and killed by bail recovery agents in a gunfight on Aug. 25, 2014.
The defendants in the case include Barnett’s Bail Bonds, the bail bonds company Atta obtained a bail bond from to secure Gary’s release from jail in 2013; Tadd Martin, Michael Thomas and Daniel Foster, the three bail recovery agents who went to the Helman residence in 2014 to retrieve Gary; and Lexington National Insurance Corporation, who is authorized to serve as a surety on bail bonds.
The parties’ counsel spent several hours Thursday night and Friday morning working on special instructions to deliver to the jury. Jury members were not called into the courtroom until 2 p.m. Friday, July 17. Proceedings started with the reading of special instructions to the jury, followed by closing statements from the attorneys in the case.
“This entire case is about power and authority,” said Attorney Bradley Colborn, who represented the Helmans. “They (the Helmans) don’t want you to think they’re a perfect family…and they (the bail recovery agents) can’t claim they acted in self-defense while they were engaged in criminal conduct. I’m not here to represent Gary. I’m representing Atta and Larry. And what happened to them was wrong.”
In his statement, Colborn asked the jury to consider specific aspects of the case while tying them to instructions provided to them by the court. He also asked the jury to count the seconds between when Martin was shot by Gary, as well as when Martin shot Larry.
“They’re honest people,” said Colborn regarding the Helmans. “Some may see this family as not worthy of dignity because of one bad apple in their family, and that’s not right. They don’t want money. They just want to show that what happened to them wasn’t right.”
Attorney Jay Rigdon, representing Barnett’s Bail Bonds, focused his statement on specific facts within the case, including a letter that Atta sent to Barnett’s Bail Bonds in response to Gary failing to appear for court.
“This case is about promises made by Atta and Gary Helman to show up in court,” said Rigdon. “Atta knew about the part of the contract where Gary got out of jail, but not that he was supposed to show up to court?”
Rigdon also noted that if the three bail recovery agents went to apprehend Gary on Aug. 25, 2014, without weapons, that the jury would instead be in court for a “murder case by Gary Helman.” He also said Atta’s letter response to Barnett’s Bail Bonds showed an inability to articulate what wrong had occurred, provided falsifying information and asked for money.
“Sound familiar?” asked Rigdon.
Foster also gave a statement, speaking of admiration for how Martin reacted the day of the shooting.
“If he (Martin) didn’t handle himself the way he did, we would all be dead,” said Foster. “I just ask you don’t fall for this bull****.”
In his closing statement to the jury, Martin also mentioned Atta’s letter to Barnett’s Bail Bonds that claimed she and Larry were assaulted.
“The Helmans are not the victims here, we are,” said Martin.
Attorney Angela Hall, representing Lexington National Insurance Corporation, said that all three bail recovery agents were professional, lawful and thorough while attempting to bring Gary into custody.
“They were just trying to do their job in the midst of a violent family,” said Hall.
Jurors began deliberating at approximately 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Shortly after 6 p.m., the jury returned two verdict forms to the court. Each verdict form focused on each plaintiff listed in the case. The jury ruled in favor of all defendants, stating that Martin, Thomas, Foster, Barnett’s Bail Bonds and Lexington National Insurance Corporation were not at fault for the Aug. 25, 2014, incident.