There’s really no amount of money that can soften the blow of having a loved one taken away from you, but one Florida jury added insult to an inexcusable injury by awarding $4 to the family of Gregory Vaughn Hill Jr. after his shooting death at the hands of police.
According to NBC News, when Monique Davis, Hill’s fiancee, heard the amount that a jury believed Hill’s mother and three children were due in light of his wrongful death, she couldn’t take it. Without waiting for the rest of the verdict, she walked out of the courtroom.
“My heart just dropped,” Davis said. “It was like, ‘Are y’all serious?’”
The case stems from four years earlier when Hill, who was black, was shot behind his closing garage door by Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Newman, who is white. According to the report, Newman and his partner, Deputy Edward Lopez, went to Hill’s home in Fort Pierce, Fla., on Jan. 14, 2014, after receiving complaints of loud music.
The deputies knocked, and Hill, 30, who was on disability leave from his job at a Coca-Cola warehouse, pulled open a garage door. Seeing the officers, he started to pull the door closed, and according to police, he had drawn a gun. Newman fired his own weapon through the closed door, piercing it. Hill was found dead inside the garage, an unloaded gun—the same one I guess he was supposed to have drawn—in his back pocket.
As is all too often the norm in these types of cases, a grand jury declined to indict Deputy Newman. Hill’s mother responded by filing a wrongful death lawsuit against Newman and St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara.
However, on May 24 of this year, a jury cleared Newman, loaded some of the blame onto Mascara, and then had the nerve to rule that Hill was entirely at fault because he was drunk at the time of his death.
So ... the jury then asserted that the damages owed to the family were $1 for funeral expenses to Hill’s mother, and $1 each to Hill’s three kids, who are ages 7, 10 and 13.
The family’s lawyer John Phillips said that the jury’s decision left him floored.
“I’d have rather seen a zero than have to tell the children that their pain and suffering for losing their father is only a dollar,” he said Thursday.
Of course, as NBC News reports, that’s exactly what eventually happened:
Because the jury assigned just 1 percent of negligence to Mascara, that $4 in damages was automatically reduced to 4 cents, Phillips said. But even that was made irrelevant by the jury’s finding that Hill’s intoxication made him 99 percent negligent. In doing so, the jury effectively erased any damages, Phillips said.
Phillips believes that the jurors’ actions were “punitive.”
“Some jurors were determined to punish the family for being in court,” he said, according to CBS.
“Either it was punitive or they viewed these children’s pain as virtually worthless,” he added, NBC notes.