A federal judge on Wednesday denied Sacramento County’s bid for a new trial to overturn a $6.5 million jury award to the family of a man killed by a sheriff’s deputy in 2012.
But the judge said he was trimming the award by $2 million because the dead man’s father died during trial and his family was not entitled to that part of the money.
The order by U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley came in a wrongful death case brought by the family of Johnathan Rose, an unarmed 24-year-old schizophrenic man who was shot to death by Deputy David McEntire during a confrontation inside the family’s North Highlands apartment.
The Rose family sued over the shooting, and last September a jury awarded them $6.5 million after less than two hours of deliberation.
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Sacramento County appealed the judgment, arguing that a new trial should be held because of alleged inconsistencies in videotaped testimony from Rose’s father, pastor Ted Rose Jr.
Nunley denied the motion for a new trial, saying he found Rose Jr.’s testimony “quite credible.”
But the judge also threw out the jury’s award of $2 million to Rose Jr. for the loss of his son’s love and companionship, a decision stemming from the fact that Rose Jr. died two days into the trial.
Rose, who had been in poor health for years, died the night before he was scheduled to testify in the case and jurors later heard videotaped testimony from a 2013 deposition he had given about the events of Jan. 17, 2012.
Rose had called 911 for help because he reported his son was agitated, and a dispatcher sent McEntire to the home with a report that the young man was being violent.
By the time McEntire arrived, testimony showed, Johnathan Rose was asleep on a mattress on the living room floor. He woke up when the deputy arrived, and McEntire later testified that Rose accosted him.
The deputy hit Rose in the head with his flashlight and eventually shot him three times after a struggle that McEntire said was a fight for his life.
The Rose family attorneys argued that the death was unnecessary and a “terrible shooting,” and the jury ultimately agreed.
Sacramento County lawyers fought the jury award, and the judge ruled Wednesday in favor of the county’s argument that state law does not allow for Rose Jr.’s award to be passed on to his widow and surviving children.
“The court is cognizant of the tragedy of these events and the pain the remaining plaintiffs have suffered with the loss of Johnathan Rose and Rose Jr.,” Nunley wrote in a 24-page order, but found that the law holds such damages do not survive if a plaintiff dies before a jury awards them.
Sacramento attorney Stewart Katz, who represented the Rose family along with attorneys Dale Galipo and Moseley Collins, said he believed the judge’s decision to reduce the award was an “erroneous legal interpretation” of state law, but said he was gratified Nunley had not questioned the jury’s decision about how much overall should have been awarded.
Katz said no decision had been made yet about whether to appeal.
“It’s been a long, long ordeal for the family,” Katz said.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, who has said the shooting was justified, expressed sympathy Wednesday for the Rose family.
“As I’ve stated before, there are no winners and losers in this case,” Jones said in an email statement to The Bee. “It is a tragedy from every perspective.
“Although we support the actions of the officer that day, it does not diminish the empathy we feel for the Rose family for their loss. Whatever monetary figure is ultimately arrived at will not change any of that.”