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Tiffany Startz on Trial after $5 Bet to Punch Rapper Killed Him

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on June 07, 2011 9:48 AM

Would you let someone punch you in the face for $5? And, if you did, do you think you'd die from that one hit? Tiffany Startz's trial is for just that - the one-punch death of rapper John Powell, 25, spurred on by a $5 bet.

Startz, 21, was attending a party in commemoration of a woman who had killed herself. Another party-goer, Jimmy Mounts, 27, started a party game - $5 to anyone who would let Startz punch them in the face, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Powell, a rapper with the group Krazy Killaz, agreed to the $5 bet, and let Startz punch him in the face. A few minutes after the punch, he told Startz "that was a good punch," reports the Tribune. Soon after, he collapsed and died.

Prosecutors have charged Startz with battery and felony reckless conduct. Mounts has been charged with reckless conduct, reports the Tribune.

The punch was recorded on a cell phone camera, and shows that the "bet" took place in front of up to 20 spectators. Powell died after a vein was ruptured in his neck by the force of the punch, an injury that was aggravated by a congenital defect, reports the Tribune.

Startz's attorney claims that she is not liable, because the punch was consensual, reports ABC News.

Consent usually is a defense to a charge of battery. If someone allows you to punch them, or says that it's okay to punch them - this is consent. However, consent can vary from state to state, so depending on the jurisdiction, consent may not be a full-fledged defense.

And, even if someone consents to a battery (like a punch), a person may still be liable if they do something that is beyond the scope of the consent (like two punches).

But what about the "freak accident" nature of the death? Would Startz be liable? Conceivably, if a jury followed the tort and criminal law theory of an "eggshell plaintiff." The eggshell plaintiff theory states that a defendant may be liable for all injuries sustained by the plaintiff (or victim) even if the plaintiff had some sort of condition that made him more susceptible to injury. In Powell's case, he had a congenital birth defect that caused his neck's vein to rupture. So if Startz is found guilty of battery, under the "eggshell theory" she would be liable for all the injuries caused by her battery - including the death.

Tiffany Startz' trial for the one-punch death is still proceeding, as the judge recently denied the defense's motion to dismiss, reports ABC News.

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