Four years after his death, the family of Gregory Hill, an African American man who was fatally shot by a white sheriff’s deputy, has been awarded a total of 4 dollars (later reduced to 4 cents). The jury cleared the deputy of any charges while Hill was blamed for his own death.
It was unclear what really happened at Gregory Hill’s house on the afternoon of January 14, 2014. Only three people were there: Hill and the two sheriff’s deputies, Deputy Christopher Newman and Deputy Edward Lopez.
On that day, the two deputies responded to a noise complaint about the blaring, obscene music coming from Hill’s house. After a brief encounter with the deputies, Hill was found dead inside the garage with an unloaded 9mm handgun in his pocket.
According to the police, they knocked on Hill’s door that eventually opened with Hill facing them and his left hand on the garage door while his right hand down. The deputies claimed that Hill was holding the gun during the confrontation, but it is still in dispute. Nevertheless, the garage door was closed when Deputy Newman fired four times through it, striking Hill in the head once and in the abdomen twice.
Hill’s mother sued St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara and Deputy Newman, who has shot her son dead, for wrongful death. After nearly two weeks of trial and a 10-hour deliberation, the jury ruled that Newman did nothing wrong. Eight jurors decided that Mascara was 1 percent at fault, while Hill was 99 percent at fault as toxicology reports showed he was drunk at the time.
Four dollars was initially given to the losing party, Hill’s family, for funeral costs which actually costs about $11,000, and another for each of Hill’s three children, ages 13, 10, and 7. It was eventually adjusted for the blame the jury placed on Mascara. The family would now only receive 1 percent of the $4 or a grand total of 4 cents.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. If you lose a case, give zero dollars. If you win a case, give fair value,” John Phillips, the family lawyer, said. “That’s where we’re just kind of confused. Were they trying to say that we should be punished for basically bringing the suit and thus the dollar? Or were they saying that the true value of these children’s pain was a dollar?”
“My heart just dropped,” Hill’s fiancee, Monique Davis, told NBC News. “It was like, are y’all serious?”
Sheriff Mascara issued a statement through a Facebook post saying that he was “pleased to see this difficult and tragic incident come to a conclusion.”
Phillips, along with Hill’s family, plans to file a motion for retrial and hopes to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page created on behalf of Hill’s family has so far raised more than half of the $90,000 in 5 days.