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Practice at issue in football player death trial

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Former coach David Jason Stinson put
winning ahead of safety, a prosecutor said as trial opened for the
Kentucky coach charged in a player's death following football
practice, but Stinson's defense said the practice wasn't unusually
hard.
Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Leland Hulbert said in opening
statements Thursday that Stinson ran a brutal practice the day
15-year-old Max Gilpin collapsed, denying players water and using
tactics that led to the sophomore lineman's death three days later.
"Coach Stinson knew the risks that day," Hulbert said. "He
put competitiveness and winning ... ahead of safety."
The former Pleasure Ridge Park High School coach, who is charged
with reckless homicide and wanton endangerment, ran a tough
practice, but wasn't responsible for the heat stroke that felled
Gilpin and never denied him water, defense attorney Brian Butler
said. Butler called the prosecution a "witch hunt."
"This man is innocent!" Butler thundered.
Stinson's trial is a rare case of a coach being charged in the
death of a player. Gilpin died Aug. 23, 2008, at a Louisville
hospital of heat stroke, sepsis and organ failure. Medical
examiners opted not to perform an autopsy.
Gilpin had collapsed at the end of a series of sprints during
practice. A weather reading taken before practice and filed in
court showed a temperature of 94, humidity of 26 percent and a heat
index of 94 degrees.
A jury of 10 men and five women was selected Thursday afternoon.
The trial is expected to last two to three weeks. Some of Gilpin's
family sat on one side of the courtroom, while Stinson's wife,
Monica, and supporters sat across an aisle.
Both opening statements focused on how Stinson ran football
practice the day Gilpin collapsed. Hulbert and Butler both
described a practice that started late and ended with Stinson
ordering players to run sprints after becoming upset at the lack of
effort 10 days before the first game of the season.
Hulbert showed jurors a football helmet, jersey, pants and
shoulder pads, as well as an overhead photo of the football field
to illustrate where players were during the practice.
He said Stinson was trained to deal with players stricken by
extreme heat but ignored signs that players were having bad
reactions to the weather and didn't help Gilpin, who wore jersey
number 61, after he collapsed.
"Who started that barbaric practice?" Hulbert asked. "Coach
Stinson. He never helped number 61 that day."
Butler called Gilpin's death a "tragedy" and charged that
Hulbert's opening statement was full of "out and out falsehoods."
Butler said prosecutors contend that coaches didn't make water
available to the players at the practice, but Gilpin was not
dehydrated when he collapsed. Butler showed jurors charts of
Gilpin's medical records. Butler said the records showed Gilpin was
hydrated when he got to the hospital.
"Jason didn't deprive Max Gilpin of water," Butler said. "He
had plenty of water and water played no part in his tragic death."
Since the indictment, Stinson has been working in a non-teaching
position with Jefferson County Public Schools. School officials
have said if Stinson is acquitted, he will be allowed to apply for
a coaching position again.
Gilpin's parents have also filed a lawsuit against Stinson and
others over the teen's death. That case is scheduled for trial in
February 2010.


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