Jury awards 4 cents to family of black man killed by deputy

Gregory Hill Jr. with his fiancee and their two daughters                        John Phillips

Gregory Hill was killed by police in Florida in January 2014 when they were responding to a noise complaint.

"Deputy Newman, perceiving that his life and the life of his fellow officer was in imminent danger, fired four shots at Hill", according to a court document filed by Newman's attorney.

Thirty witnesses were called during the trial, Phillips said, some of whom contested Newman's narrative that he saw a gun and that he demanded Hill drop the weapon before opening fire. Hill had been shot three times by one of the deputies, Christopher Newman. And after a brief encounter with the deputies, he was discovered dead inside the garage with a gun in his back pocket; the deputies said he had been holding it during their confrontation, though that claim is in dispute.

A grand jury in Florida brought no charges, so Hill's family turned to federal court, filing a civil rights lawsuit against Newman and his department.

The $4 award to the family of the slain man, Gregory Vaughn Hill Jr. of Fort Pierce, consisted of $1 for funeral expenses, and $1 each to his three children, report the New York Times, TCPalm.com, News3, Fox2Now and CNN.

The sheriff's office said in a statement that Newman was "placed in a very hard situation" and "made the best decision he could for the safety of his partner, himself, and the public given the circumstances he faced".

Phillips has handled many high-profile cases, most notably the Jordan Davis "loud music" trial in Jacksonville, and said he has rarely been left so disturbed by a jury's findings. "We appreciate the jurys time and understanding". Police later claimed he'd had a gun they told him to drop - a claim never proved - and then said they'd found a gun (unloaded) in Hill's back pocket; they also determined his blood alcohol level was nearly five times the legal limit for driving, though probably pretty close to that of many people getting drunk in their garage while listening to music. Seeing the officers, he started to close the door - and pulled out a gun, police said.

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A lawyer representing Mascara and Newman did not respond to an email seeking comment.

"Why go there with the $1?" he asked.

Then the jurors also found the sheriff's office was just 1 percent responsible for the death, the compensation was further reduced to only 4 cents. "That was the hurtful part".

For one, even if Hill were initially pointing a gun at the officers, he was not doing so at the time he was fatally shot, as investigators eventually found a gun in his back pocket while they were searching his body. "If you win a case, give fair value", Phillips said. "And then everybodys mind changed to one?" Phillips suggested that the wording of the instructions may have confused the jurors.

Phillips said he will file a motion for a retrial.

"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", she told NBC News. "That's the only way I'm going to get peace".

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