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Ky. football coach acquitted in player's death

After more than two weeks of testimony, a Louisville jury needed to deliberate just 90 minutes before acquitting former high school football coach David Jason Stinson on all charges in the heat-related death of one of his players following a grueling practice in August 2008.

Stinson was charged with reckless homicide and wanton endangerment, in the death of Max Gilpin, a 15-year-old, 6-foot-2, 220-pound offensive lineman, who collapsed during a practice. Gilpin died three days later of septic shock, multiple organ failure and complications from heat stroke. Prosecutors said Stinson ran a brutal practice and withheld water from his players, as they ran on a day when the heat index reached 94 degrees. Stinson could have faced up to 10 years in prison.

This case was particularly intriguing because of the precedent that a conviction could have set – that perhaps coaches might fear ordering players to complete tough drills or demand players undergo more extensive physical examinations to determine any pre-existing conditions that might lead to a catastrophic injury.

Despite the verdict, it would appear the attention this case produced might give coaches some pause. Never before had a coach been charged in the death of a player who was simply running the same drills as his teammates. Now that it has happened, coaches know that, at least, they could face charges in the event of a catastrophe on the field.

Gilpin’s parents have filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against Stinson and five other coaches, claiming negligence in their tending to their son. That case is set to go to trial in February.

By Alan Goldenbach  |  September 18, 2009; 11:50 AM ET
Categories:  National issues  
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