June 1 (UPI) -- After four days of testimony and 10 hours of jury deliberation, a federal jury found a Florida sheriff's deputy slightly liable in the shooting four years ago of an armed man, and awarded his family $4.
Gregory Hill Jr., 30, was shot dead in 2014 after St. Lucie Deputy Christopher Newman and his partner responded to investigate a loud-music complaint. Hill was found with an unloaded gun in his pocket and his blood-alcohol content was 0.40, five times Florida's legal limit.
The mother filed the lawsuit on the second anniversary of his death, alleging negligence and liability against the office of St. Lucie County, Fla., Sheriff Ken Mascara.
The jury concluded Hill had been "under the influence of alcoholic beverages to the extent that his normal faculties were impaired and that as a result of the influence of such alcoholic beverage."
Because he was drunk, the jury ruled Hill was 99 percent responsible for his own death and the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office was 1 percent responsible.
The $4 award was split, with $1 to be paid to Hill's mother for funeral expenses and $1 to each of Hill's three children for loss of parental companionship, instruction, guidance, mental pain and suffering. Mascara's office must pay 4 cents.
Newman was found not liable.
John Phillips, an attorney for the Hill family, called the jury's award "perplexing" and questioned why it would give $1 for $11,000 in funeral expenses and another dollar for each child's suffering when it simply could have awarded no damages.
"That a black child's pain is only worth a dollar is exactly the problem with the plight of the African-American right now. This says, 'black lives don't matter,'" Phillips told CNN.
Phillips said he will file a motion for a new trial in U.S. District Court or the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, if necessary.
A statement from St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said Newman was "placed in a very difficult situation" and "like so many fellow law enforcement officers must do every day, he made the best decision he could for the safety of his partner, himself, and the public given the circumstances he faced."