On Friday, September 16, Fulton County Superior Court Judge T. Jackson ruled Nick Gordon was ‘legally responsible’ for the untimely death of Bobbi Kristina Brown. The wrongful death civil suit was filed by members of Brown’s estate who alleged that on New Year’s Eve, 2015, Gordon, during a cocaine and alcohol-fueled rage, gave the young woman a “toxic cocktail” before placing her face down in a bathtub after she passed out where she was later found unconscious. She fell into a coma never to wake, and was pronounced dead just six months later. Gordon was the boyfriend of Bobbi Kristina, who was the only child of the late Whitney Houston and R&B singer Bobby Brown. The romantic relationship between Gordon and Brown had been mired in controversy since it began; the two allegedly grew up together as brother and sister, with Ms. Houston once referring to Gordon as her “adopted son,” having helped raise and take care of him for most of his life. The circumstances surrounding the facts of the case left many questioning the motives of Gordon, who claimed he did not know Brown was in danger, after he transferred money from some of her accounts to his and took possession of a valuable ring just hours after she was taken to the hospital. Her estate is estimated to be worth $20 million.
The official coroner’s report listed the cause of Brown’s death as drug intoxication and immersion in water, though it remains undetermined whether her death was accidental or intentional and so far, Gordon has not been formally charged for any wrongdoing. However, Brown’s mother, iconic singer Whitney Houston, was found dead at 48-years-old in almost identical circumstances: unconscious in a bathtub after suffering an accidental drowning due to cocaine use and coronary artery disease. Bobbi Kristina Brown made it publicly known she feared she would die just like her mother and she did, a mere three years behind. She was 22-years-old at the time of her passing.
The ruling in the case is not the same as a guilty verdict; in civil matters the plaintiff’s must only prove there is a preponderance of evidence pointing to culpability as opposed to “beyond a reasonable doubt” required in criminal cases. In this particular case, the judge made his ruling based on the fact that Gordon failed to show up to court at all. As a result, the court ordered a jury trial to determine the remuneration the family will receive; they are seeking $50 million in compensatory and punitive damages. No reason was provided by Gordon, who has no legal counsel representing him in the case, as to why he failed to show up and when speaking to CNN’s Faith Robinson, Gordon declared he had “no comment” on the ruling; he did, however, have time to smile for the paparazzi when out and about just a few days ago.
Legal analysts who are not involved in the case weighed in about his failure to appear, with Atlanta criminal defense attorney Page Pate telling the press, “There’s been no finding of liability, no finding that he killed her or had any involvement in the killing. It’s simply a sanction imposed by the court because he failed to participate in the litigation in any meaningful way.” She further added, “If you don’t have the money to begin with, then many defendants say, ‘Why would I pay a lawyer to represent me in this case? Sure, let them get a hundred million dollars against me. Good luck finding a hundred million dollars.” David Ware, an attorney for Brown’s estate, made it clear they plan to “aggressively pursue” any amount the family is awarded and that they are satisfied with the ruling. During a phone interview following the judge’s verdict, Ware said, “You can’t ignore the court process, especially when you are accused of having engaged in this sort of horrific conduct. You have to give account, and Mr. Gordon decided to thumb his nose at the court process and the court has finally said that he must pay.”
As for Ms. Brown and her surviving family, I hope they find the peace they deserve after having endured so much pain, regardless if Mr. Gordon ever admits to, or pays for, the crime he allegedly committed. Though I don’t believe any amount of money could ever replace the loss of a loved one.