Was Kentucky HS Coach Responsible For Player's Death?

Henry BallSenior Analyst ISeptember 17, 2009

9/17/2009 From the Bleacher Report:

LOUISVILLE, KY—David Jason Stinson, a 37-year-old former high school football coach was found not guilty today by a jury of his peers. 

Stinson had been charged with reckless homicide and wanton endangerment in the death of Max Gilpin, a 15-year-old lineman on the Pleasure Ridge Park High School football team.

It took the jury less than 90 minutes to decide coach Stinson's innocence.  When asked if he had ever seen a homicide case decided so quickly, Alex Dathorne, Stinson's attorney said, "Yes, when the defendant is innocent and there is absolutely no evidence that he did anything wrong!"

Indeed, the prosecution offered no evidence or testimony that Gilpin had actually dehydrated, yet several medical experts called by the defense told jurors that it appeared a combination of heat, the use of a dietary supplement (creatine), the drug Adderall-used to treat attention deficit disorder, and being ill were the main factors in Gilpin's death. 

The defense experts classified the death as an accident.

Did the coach step over the line in ordering the players to run extra wind sprints on that day when the temperature reached 94 degrees? 

According to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jon Heck, Stinson ran the Aug. 20, 2008, practice like a “boot camp,” running players until someone quit the team.

Not so according to some of Gilpin's teammates who said they only ran a few sprints more than normal.

Now the case will move to civil court, as Gilpin's family apparently does intend to pursue damages in a wrongful death suit.  The burden of proof is much lower in civil court so coaches beware.

Jimmie Reed, executive director of the Kentucky Football Coaches Association, said he followed the trial daily and expected most of the coaches in the state were doing the same. He said a conviction would have had lasting ramifications for all teams.

"Any type of coaching where you're dealing with student-athletes, where there's some type of tragic accident, then it would have been scrutinized to the liability of the coach no matter what the sport was," he said.

And here is where we should all pay attention to this case, if this man's life is ruined for running a tough practice then football in America will suffer. 

Who would want to except the liability associated with coaching?  Remember Bear Bryant, he would have been sentenced to life in prison after his first fall camp at Texas A&M and Alabama might not have all those National Championships if held to the standard for liability that was sought by the prosecution.

Certainly what happened to young Max Gilpin was tragic and most unfortunate but according to a jury of his peers, it was not coach Stinson's fault.

As difficult as it is to lose a loved one, the Gilpins need to forgive and move on.  My prayers go out to them.

By Henry Ball - Syndicated Writer and Bleacher Report Scribe  

*above picture from Google images*

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