Judge awards Rebecca Zahau's family $5M, Shacknai to appeal

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A judge Thursday ruled how much money the family of Rebecca Zahau will be awarded after a jury found her boyfriend’s brother responsible for her death.

On Wednesday, jurors found Adam Shacknai repsponsible for Zahau’s death in July 2011. Her body was found hanging from a balcony at the Spreckels Mansion in Coronado.

Jurors were asked two main questions: Did Adam Shacknai touch Rebecca Zahau (before she died) with the intent to harm her? Did that touching cause her death? Jurors determined "yes" in both instances.

Even with the decision, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday that they are standing by their findings that Zahau committed suicide. A sheriff’s department spokesman did say the department would be open to reviewing any new facts presented by Zahau’s family.

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In Thursday morning’s hearing, a judge awarded the jury’s recommendation of $5 million to the Zahau family. Punitive damages, that would be in addition to the $5 million, were waived.

"I hope that the Sheriff's Department is paying some attention," Zahau's family attorney, Keith Greer, said after the verdict was read. "This has always been about getting the Sheriff's Department to reopen this up ... Adam Shacknai doesn't have money, This isn't about money ... [SDSO] should use their resources to do the job correctly."

Adam Shacknai has denied the accusations that he was responsible, and his brother and Zahau's boyfriend, Jonah, testified it was "inconceivable" that he had anything to do with Zahau's death.

Adam Shacknai's attorney said in a statement to 10News they plan to appeal the verdict, reading in part:

"This lawsuit was frivolous and reckless from the very beginning, and never should have been allowed to proceed to trial. Plaintiffs admitted under oath that they filed this lawsuit without any proof, later dismissed two defendants they had wrongly accused as murderers, and ultimately fixated on Adam because they came to believe he was, in their words, 'smart,' and knew how to tie a common knot known to millions. In my entire 40-year legal career, I have never seen such a catastrophic manipulation and failure of our court system ...

Multiple county and statewide law enforcement agencies long ago unequivocally determined that Adam Shacknai had nothing whatsoever to do with the death of Rebecca Zahau. Nothing about this irrational verdict changes those conclusions, which the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department yesterday again confirmed, based on all the forensic evidence and medical examinations."

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