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Mistrial declared on whether deputy shooting done in malice

A jury said Wednesday that it is unable to reach a verdict on whether a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy acted with malice when he shot a teenager holding a toy gun three years ago.

The deadlock led Superior Court Judge Ernest Hiroshige to declare a mistrial on that part of the civil lawsuit against L.A. County.

In May 2009, Deputy Scott Sorrow shot 15-year old William Fetters once in the left torso near the back while responding to a radio call about a man on a bike with a gun.

Fetters, now 19, survived the wound. His guardian later filed a lawsuit in which that contends Fetters complied with Sorrow’s orders to drop the gun but was shot anyway. Sorrow says the teen pointed the gun at the patrol car as he peddled away.

The gun turned out to be fake, but was missing the orange cap that some toy guns have.

On Tuesday, the jury voted to award Fetters $1.1 million in damages for pain and suffering damages after finding the deputy had used excessive force when he shot Fetters.

But the jury couldn’t come to a consensus on whether Sorrow shot Fetters with malice. The malice question could have led to an award for punitive damages. After continued deliberations stalled, Judge Hiroshige declared a mistrial on the malice question.

Attorney Bradley Gage who represents Fetters said his client is happy with the initial verdict.

“He’s grateful that the jury saw that because he’s always known that he was a victim of excessive force,” Gage said.

Gage plans to file for a new trial to argue for punitive damages. A court date has been scheduled for April 15. 

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