Dontrell Stephens' family reacts to $23M verdict

Posted at 7:12 PM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-04 19:16:31-05

Dontrell Stephens' family says they are relieved by a jury's verdict, but also realize it doesn't mean the paralyzed man will have any money in the near future.

The $23 million verdict against Deputy Adams Lin and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office will require a claims bill within the Florida Legislature.

That means legislators will have to vote to allow Stephens to collect the money.

"If there is not a rallying of support behind this, it is very unlikely that he may see any dime of this award. So it is really important that the people in power know that the community is aware of what is happening and is standing behind this jury's decision," Karen Stephens said.

Karen Stephens is Dontrell's cousin and helps support him with money she earns at her beauty salon.

Dontrell Stephens was paralyzed when Deputy Lin shot him in 2013.

Lin says he thought Stephens had a gun, but he only had a cell phone.

State Representative Dave Kerner says the claims bill process is a long one with no certainty about what the outcome will be.

"Claims bills are a very complicated process. They are very time intensive. In fact, if the claims bill is ever approved...and that is a big if, it often takes four to five years," Kerner said.

Kerner says he was recently able to get a claims bill from the 1960s through the legislature.

"I don't think it is fair. I think it's harsh on the victim or the victim's family. I think politics should play no role in compensation. It's a bad system that doesn't work," Kerner said.

Karen Stephens says her family is already thinking about starting a grassroots campaign to spread awareness about Dontrell's case.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office says they plan to appeal the jury's verdict.