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Deputy coroner testifies in player death trial

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A teen football player's death appeared
to be accidental, but that conclusion could change depending upon
the outcome of a trial stemming from his collapse and demise, a
deputy coroner testified Friday.

Jefferson County Deputy Coroner Sam Weakley told a jury in the
case of former Kentucky high school football coach David Jason
Stinson that when he wrote his report, there appeared to be no
wrongdoing leading to the death of 15-year-old Max Gilpin.

But, Weakley said, depending upon the information that comes out
at trial, the accidental ruling could change.

"I may have missed something," Weakley said.

Weakley testified for the prosecution in Stinson's trial on
charges of reckless homicide and wanton endangerment stemming from
the death of Gilpin, a sophomore offensive lineman at Pleasure
Ridge Park High School.

Gilpin collapsed during sprints at the end of practice on Aug.
20, 2008 and died three days later at a Louisville hospital.
Stinson has pleaded not guilty to both charges in a rare case of a
coach being charged with a player's death.

Weakley, a deputy coroner for about 15 years, said he based his
accidental death conclusion on the medical records from Kosair
Children's Hospital and a discussion with Gilpin's family at the
hospital. The death certificate listed septic shock, multiple organ
failure and heat stroke as the cause of death. No autopsy was done.

"I knew of no malfeasance involved in the situation," said
Weakley, who is not a doctor. "I just thought it was a horrible
accident."

Weakley said he's aware of the allegations that Stinson had
players run at practice, but purposely did not read media reports
or police reports about the day Gilpin collapsed in case he had to
review the death again.

Weakley said details that come to light after a cause of death
has been declared sometimes prompt the cause to be changed.

"It does happen, not frequently, but it does happen," Weakley
said.

But, after handling more than 7,000 deaths in his career,
Weakley said he could not recall a homicide prosecution where no
autopsy was done.

"So, this would be the first one?" defense attorney Alex
Dathorne asked.

"This would be the first one I had anything to do with, yes,"
Weakley answered.

Jurors on Friday also heard from three parents who were watching
a soccer game on an adjacent field. All of the parents, 49-year-old
Greg Smith, 39-year-old Phil Compton and 40-year-old Brian
Bratcher, said Stinson yelled at the players after they finished
running sprints.

Bratcher, who said he played football in high school, said he
didn't find anything unusual about the yelling.

"If you don't do things right, a head coach is going to get in
your face," Bratcher said. "It's a contact sport."

Bratcher said Gilpin appeared to be "woozy" at the end of
practice, then saw two players and several adults helping him after
the teen collapsed.

"He was just out of it at that time," Bratcher said.

Bratcher recalled that Stinson scolded the team as assistant
coaches were spraying water on Gilpin and another player who had
left the field during the sprints.

Prosecutors said Stinson ran a brutal practice the day Gilpin
collapsed. Stinson's defense says the practice wasn't unusually
hard.

Stinson's trial is a rare case of a coach being prosecuted for a
player's death.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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