Two years after a 13-year-old student gunned down teacher Barry Grunow in a middle school hallway, an attorney for his widow asked jurors to send a message to the gun industry and award the woman and her family $76 million.
Her lawsuit against a gun distributor is aimed at ridding the streets of cheap weapons known as "Saturday Night specials" and alleges that the Raven handgun that killed Grunow is unreasonably dangerous because it looks like a toy and often falls into the hands of juveniles.
Attorneys for gun distributor Valor Corp. argued that the gun performed as designed, unfortunately bringing about a tragic consequence.
"If you misuse it and if you fire it at someone then, yeah, you would expect that bad things will happen," said Valor attorney John Renzulli.
The jury of six women will begin deliberations Thursday morning.
The case has drawn national attention because it questioned whether a gun distributor should have taken steps to make its products safer and because it addressed the flaws associated with a cheap, easily concealable weapon that can be confused with a toy.
Shaking the small silver gun angrily in his hand, plaintiff's attorney Bob Montgomery likened the weapon to "a nasty little piece of junk." He said Barry Grunow smiled when his student pointed it at his head because the student was known to frequently play jokes.
Students who saw Grunow fall to the floor moments later testified earlier in the six-week trial they hadn't believed the gun was real.
Renzulli told jurors to fault the shooter, Nathaniel Brazill, for the loss suffered by Pam Grunow and her two young children. Brazill, now 16, is serving a 28-year sentence for second-degree murder.
Renzulli also cast blame on Lake Worth Middle School for letting Brazill on campus with a weapon and on the family friend who kept the gun unlocked, next to cartridges, in the dresser drawer where Brazill found it.
"There is a modicum of responsibility that we all take when we buy products," Renzulli said during his closing argument. "We can't expect to be reckless and careless and then, it's forgiven."
Defense attorneys maintained that the Raven .25-caliber handgun is legitimately used for self-defense and that its small size makes it convenient, not more dangerous.
But attorneys for Pam Grunow said the gun has no purpose because it's too unreliable and that it's not used by collectors, law enforcement officers or the military, or for target practice, hunting or self-defense.
Plaintiff's attorney Rebecca Larson said the gun, instead, is used by too many juveniles in too many crimes and urged jurors to weigh the weapon's benefits against its risks.
Montgomery, known for successfully spearheading the state's efforts to sue the tobacco industry for $11.3 billion, said he hopes the case will achieve what lawsuits against tobacco companies have. In those, juries have awarded multibillion-dollar verdicts to smokers because tobacco companies could have made their products less dangerous.