Coaches Charged With Murder After Death Of Basketball Player
Two Georgia basketball coaches have been charged with the murder of a 16-year-old girl after forcing their players to practice in extreme heat. They are facing charges of second-degree murder, second-degree child cruelty, involuntary manslaughter, and extreme recklessness. A grand jury returned an indictment against the two coaches. The day the girl died, the heat index was between 106 and 108 degrees.
The girl had been ordered by her coaches to run up and down the stadium steps as part of her conditioning. She collapsed and was quickly taken to the hospital where she died of cardiac arrest and kidney failure caused by heatstroke.
On the day of the player’s death, there was a heat advisory in effect that recommended all outdoor activities be limited. The parents of the girl have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the coaches and the school.
Coach lawsuits happen frequently at the high school level where students are pushed to extremes for the purposes of conditioning. This is all fine and good, necessary to their athletic improvement. However, the coaches also have a duty of care to ensure that their players are being trained safely, and clearly, that did not happen here. So, the coaches were obviously negligent for this event and vicariously, so is the school district.
While it may have happened somewhere before, criminal charges against coaches for practice-related accidents are rare to the point of being unprecedented. These coaches are being accused of second-degree murder, which means that the prosecution is accusing them of maliciously trying to harm the girl. The prosecution has also given the jury the option of convicting the coaches with involuntary manslaughter, a lesser offense.
To convict the coaches of second-degree murder, the prosecution will need to prove that they had evil intent. In fact, their intent may not have been to kill the girl, but they were at the very least, trying to harm her. That seems unlikely to stick.
For someone to be charged with criminal negligence, the prosecution must meet the same standard of proof that a personal injury attorney would have to meet in a gross negligence lawsuit. Essentially, the prosecution must prove that the defendant’s conduct was so reckless that it both made an injury like this inevitable and the defendant never bothered to care. It’s a high standard to meet, and yet personal injury attorneys meet that standard every day. That means that involuntary manslaughter and endangerment charges are likely to stick depending on what kind of evidence the prosecution has against the coaches.
The school has yet to return comments from the media and it remains unclear whether the coaches will lose their jobs. If the school fires the coaches, that is tantamount to admitting liability, so they may forestall that process until after more information becomes known.
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If your child was injured due to a negligent teacher or coach, you may be able to recover damages related to their medical expenses and more. Call the Tampa personal injury attorneys at The Matassini Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.