Two high school basketball coaches in Georgia are accused of murder in connection with the death of a teenager who collapsed after performing exercises during an exercise held at almost 100 degrees of heat, and later died.
On Wednesday morning, days before the second anniversary of the teenager’s death, 16-year-old Imani Bell, lawyers for the Bell family announced the allegations at a press conference in Atlanta.
“This is very big,” said Justin Miller, a lawyer who represents the family at the hospital related lawsuit. According to Mr. Miller, who is also Imani’s cousin, the murder charges were first brought against coaches accused of negligence.
Eric Bell, Imani’s father, called the accusations a “bitter-sweet” development. “Nothing gets any easier,” he said of his daughter’s death.
Last month, a grand jury in Clayton County filed an indictment against LaRose Maria Walker-Asekera, head basketball coach at Elite Scholars Academy in Jonesboro, Ga., And Dwight Broom Palmer, assistant basketball coach, on second-degree murder charges, child cruelty , involuntary manslaughter and reckless behavior. The charges were released this week.
Asked why she called a grand jury to file a charge against the murder coach, Tasha Mosley, Clayton County District Attorney said, “The murder charge is second-degree and is based on criminal negligence, not malicious intent.”
Jessica Gabel Cino, a partner in the Atlanta law firm, suggested that the murder charges could be prompted by a plea agreement. “A murder charge related to endangering / abusing a child is clearly not inappropriate,” she wrote in an e-mail. “But I wonder if the prosecution can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Lawyers for Ms. Walker-Asekere or Mr. Broom Palmer could not be immediately available Wednesday. Clayton County Public Schools declined to comment on the allegations or whether any of the coaches were still employed in the county.
Imani was younger at Elite Scholars Academy, about 20 miles south of Atlanta, on August 13, 2019, when she ran up the steps of a football stadium as part of a practice held in “extreme heat” and crashed, according to the lawsuit. filed in February by the girl’s parents.
The temperature at the time was approximately 98 degrees, and the thermal temperature index was between 101 and 106 degrees, family lawyers say. A heat warning was issued for Clayton County that day, they said.
An autopsy conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation attributed her death to heat stroke caused by severe physical exertion at extreme temperatures, according to a statement from the lawyer’s family. They said he did not find pre-existing medical conditions.
“Common sense that is not common can literally kill your child,” Mr Miller told a news conference on Wednesday. “You have coaches who want to win more than caring for these kids.”
The civil case differs somewhat in who tries to hold him responsible for the omissions that led to Imani’s death. In addition to Ms. Walker-Asekere, the lawsuit alleges that Jason Greenlee, the school’s athletic director, is charged; Shonda Shaw, principal; and Phillip Ramsey and Ashley Baker, assistant directors. Mr. Broom Palmer is not listed in the lawsuit.
In court documents, Ms. Walker-Asekere said it was her first day as coach of the women’s basketball team, and that she relied on the guidance of the athletic director and other academy staff to conduct conditioning activities.
“It was also Imani’s first day,” Mr Miller said on Wednesday.