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The Strange Case of the Fatal $5 Punch

 
 
Reply Fri 27 May, 2011 02:18 pm
Judge won't drop charges in fatal party punch

A Will County judge this morning declined to drop criminal charges against a Joliet woman who fatally punched a man who took a $5 party game bet last fall.

Theresa Guy, the mother of John Powell who was killed by the punch, whispered, "Yes!" as Judge Edward Burmila handed down his ruling.

"I'm thanking God," she said outside court, wiping away tears. "I didn't want her (Tiffany Startz) to walk away from it."

Startz, 21, was charged with felony reckless conduct and battery charges.

Her attorneys argued the charges should be dismissed because the punch was consensual. They also contended that Startz was an untrained fighter whose fatal punch was a freak accident.

On Sept. 25, a party was being thrown at Mounts' uncle's home to celebrate the life of a woman who had committed suicide. Powell, part of a two-man rap group called Krazy Killaz, had been asked to perform.

Powell, a "daredevil" who had played football at Romeoville High School, accepted $5 and let Startz punch him, his mother said. A cellphone recording shows that Powell was knocked back several steps by the blow.

He collapsed a few minutes later.

The impact of the punch ruptured an artery in Powell's neck, causing blood to pool around his brain and leading to his death soon after at Provena St. Joseph's Medical Center in Joliet, said Will County Coroner Patrick O'Neil.

Guy said Crest Hill police found that no one called 911 until after partygoers had settled on a story and gave the underage drinkers time to leave.

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Felony reckless conduct is defined in Illinois as: "A person who causes great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement by any means, commits reckless conduct if he or she performs recklessly the acts that cause the harm, whether they otherwise are lawful or unlawful." Felony reckless conduct is a Class 4 felony: "The sentence of imprisonment shall be a determinate sentence of not less than one year and not more than 3 years."

I'm not sure how the state can press a battery charge here, since the victim consented to the battery. In that sense, there's no difference between the punch thrown at this party and the punch thrown in a boxing ring. As the Romans used to say, volenti non fit injuria. Reckless conduct is different, but not much. Who was being reckless here? The puncher or the punchee? Do we send someone to prison for punching a guy who says "go ahead and punch me"?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 14 • Views: 3,771 • Replies: 35
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 May, 2011 02:32 pm
OK, who was Mount?

(Not germane to your question, i know, but the name just shows up in the story without explanation.)
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 May, 2011 02:40 pm
@Setanta,
Judge Edward Burmila had been expected to rule this morning on whether charges should be dismissed against Startz, 21 as well as Romeoville resident Jimmy Mounts, 27, who staged the game. But he put off a decision until May 27.

source

Sloppy copy-editing at the Tribune. There is precedent.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 May, 2011 02:45 pm
OK, Boss, thanks. I think your argument is well reasoned (if you are, in fact, saying she should be tried for reckless conduct). One does assume such a risk by consent, and the result of the punch was a freak outcome.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 May, 2011 02:54 pm
@joefromchicago,
"Not less than one year" seems like too much for this. It really sounds freakish. It was a $5 party bet, nobody involved expected more than a sore jaw at worst.

edit: This part seems most problematic:

Quote:
Guy said Crest Hill police found that no one called 911 until after partygoers had settled on a story and gave the underage drinkers time to leave


especially if the damage could have been better dealt with had paramedics reached him sooner.
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 May, 2011 03:44 pm
Quote:
Powell, part of a two-man rap group called Krazy Killaz,


Strangely prophetic group name, with an unforeseen twist.
0 Replies
 
Irishk
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 May, 2011 04:29 pm
@sozobe,
That's what I thought. They cared about their friend...but cared more about their story and getting the minors out. I wonder if he could have been saved.
0 Replies
 
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 May, 2011 06:28 pm
@joefromchicago,
I once broke the back of a business agent with a punch t o his nose that he asked for... I may have been able to argue myself out of a serious charge, but that was what I was facing... I learned in a hurry about egg shell skulls... And about the power of politics, since the ability of the ironworkers union to enlist the aid of the prosecutor who they had helped to elect impressed me when he offered to drop the misdameaner charges, and bring them back as a felony...

What is going to happen is called Jury Nulification... The jury cannot change the law, so they must be the law...
Mame
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 May, 2011 06:44 pm
@Fido,
It was not intentional. She was young, inexperienced in hitting (one supposes) so therefore thought it was just a punch, and was goaded into it, was she not? Surely those are mitigating factors. She didn't know her punch would hurt him, never mind kill him. I think this judge is over-reacting, but I also acknowledge I haven't heard any of the testimony and he has, so he may have the rights of it.
PUNKEY
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 May, 2011 06:08 am
That "bet" should never have happened and the person who threw the fatal punch should not have partaken in such an absurd provocation.

How about if someone gives you a gun and bets you to shoot him . . . and you do? Should you be liable for the results of the incident?

Punkey(go ahead, I dare you) Michigan

sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 May, 2011 07:09 am
@PUNKEY,
However, the results of a gunshot are far more predictable than the results of a punch.

I would never expect to kill someone with a punch (and I think I probably have a decent punch), and I don't think either of the people involved expected anything more than some temporary pain.
0 Replies
 
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 May, 2011 09:56 am
@Mame,
Mame wrote:

It was not intentional. She was young, inexperienced in hitting (one supposes) so therefore thought it was just a punch, and was goaded into it, was she not? Surely those are mitigating factors. She didn't know her punch would hurt him, never mind kill him. I think this judge is over-reacting, but I also acknowledge I haven't heard any of the testimony and he has, so he may have the rights of it.
I told my business agent: If you cross me again I will be happy to kick your ass... He thought the whole affair was over, but could not resist goading me with an invite to do more... As he sat down at his desk, which he was standing behind, he said: Why wait???...
I was in no mood to wait, but out of respect for the organization, and trying to keep my peace, I had waited... I did all I intended: I punched him in the nose... I might have killed him, and I doubt the world would have missed him... Fortunately, I only broke his back, or he did, trying to get away from me... It was only a fracture, but it might have been his skull, and then fck me... It does not matter if it is invited or deserved, or an affair of honor... The king's peace is worth more than the honor of a mere mortal...
0 Replies
 
parados
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 May, 2011 11:45 am
@joefromchicago,
The issue I see is that no one called 911 right away.

Yes, the punch was consensual but once things went wrong the puncher and everyone else had a responsibility to get help.

Whether that leads to this particular charge, I don't know.
Irishk
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 May, 2011 11:54 am
@parados,
I agree. Those responsible for the delay in getting help for the injured man are just as guilty of 'reckless' behavior as the woman who accidentally killed him.
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 May, 2011 11:59 am
@parados,
I believe you're quite right about this Parados.

The continued prosecution is most likely because the victim just might have been saved if the other parties involved MOVED in a timely fashion and called for an ambulance ASAP.

I believe the criminal charges are a backdoor punishment for their slow action to call 911.
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 May, 2011 12:04 pm
I also think the "consent" is questionable. What did the guy consent to? A punch in the arm? What he got was a crushing blow that knocked him back several steps. I doubt that was what he was consenting to. I don't think this "game" would have happened unless the party goers knew that the woman could deliver a punch that was completely out of proportion with her appearance. I think the victim was probably deceived about what he was getting into.
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 May, 2011 12:08 pm
@engineer,
I think justice would be served if Startz gets nothing harsher then a suspended sentence. The trial should be used to send out a message where one should take responsibility to every action one makes.
Irishk
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 May, 2011 12:11 pm
@tsarstepan,
Yes. The deceased's family is grieving and in pain and want something more. I understand that, but when help finally arrived, everyone remaining at the scene was culpable.
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 May, 2011 12:26 pm
@parados,
Quote:
but once things went wrong the puncher and everyone else had a responsibility to get help.


What responsibility would that be, a legal one, a moral one?
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 May, 2011 12:31 pm
@Irishk,
Quote:
but when help finally arrived, everyone remaining at the scene was culpable.


Kitty Genovese.
0 Replies
 
 

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