A woman in Illinois was recently acquitted after she faced criminal charges for the punching death of a young man at a party.
According to a recent report in the Chicago Sun-Times, Tiffany Startz, 22, had been arrested in 2010 and convicted of murdering 25-year-old John Powell at a party in Joliet, Illinois.
The party had a dark feel from the beginning. Sources indicate that the victim and the alleged murderer were partying with a group of friends in a garage to celebrate the life of a mutual friend who had recently committed suicide.
During the gathering, Powell, who was an aspiring rapper from Romeoville, Illinois, performed a few songs in the home’s basement. When the party moved to the garage, events took a turn for the tragic.
Late that night, 28-year-old Jimmy Mounts offered $5 to anyone willing to be punched by Startz. Powell, at the urging of his peers, accepted the offer.
Grainy cell phone footage of Startz’s punch was shown at trial, as jurors saw Powell hold his arms behind his back and lean forward, awaiting the punch. According to her criminal defense attorney, Startz took off her ring and proceeded to deliver a closed-fist punch to Powell’s face.
The right-handed punch sent Powell staggering backwards a few steps, but Startz claims that he later said “wow, nice job” in response to the blow. Of course, at the time Startz didn’t anticipate facing a serious arrest for the incident.
A few minutes later, however, Powell collapsed to the floor. Bystanders called an ambulance, and Powell died shortly thereafter at a Joliet hospital.
According to the county coroner, the force of the punch snapped Powell’s head back, which caused a vein in Powell’s neck to open, and ultimately resulted in a fatal brain injury.
Sources indicate that Powell’s death certificate poignantly notes that the death was “the result of a party game.”
Three months after Powell died, police arrested both Mounts and Startz. Mounts, who instigated the dare, initially lied to officers and told them that Powell had simply fallen. He later pled guilty to lying to police.
Startz, of course, faced a criminal trial for homicide, but was acquitted when the judge recognized that Powell had voluntarily given Startz permission to deliver the punch.
After the verdict was given, prosecutors said that they took the case very seriously, but admitted that they would not appeal the decision.
When she learned her fate, Startz remained very somber, and walked slowly to her car with her parents. Her parents also gave a very measured response, expressing sympathy for Powell’s parents and their “horrible” experience.
In this case, it seems that justice was served, though it left everyone with a bitter feeling. To sentence Startz to a lifetime sentence for a single punch would have been grossly unfair.