LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A former Kentucky high school football coach was found not guilty Thursday in the death of a player who collapsed at a practice where the team was put through a series of sprints on a hot summer day.
It was a rare criminal prosecution of a coach in a player’s heat-related death.
Former coach David Jason Stinson, 37, was charged after 15-year-old Max Gilpin collapsed at an August 2008 practice as the team ran a series of sprints known as “gassers.” He died three days later at a Louisville hospital of heat stroke, sepsis and multiple organ failure. His temperature reached at least 107 degrees.
The jury deliberated for less than two hours, and Stinson hugged defense attorney Brian Butler after the verdict was read.
“That’s why they came back quickly, because he was innocent,” said Butler, who characterized the prosecution as a “witch hunt.” Stinson left without speaking to reporters.
Players said he ordered the gassers as punishment for the lack of effort they showed at practice on a day where the temperature and heat index were both 94 degrees.
Prosecutors relied on a series of Gilpin’s teammates who testified that several teens became ill during the gassers, vomiting or bowing out of the running with ailments.