Judge: Guts Church's fatal boxing event was 'clearly legal'
BY JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Thursday, August 02, 2012
8/02/12 at 7:55 AM
Church owners are one step closer to a jury trial in a civil case regarding a former University of Tulsa linebacker who died after a boxing event at Guts Church, despite the judge's ruling Wednesday that the event violated no state boxing laws.
"This event was clearly legal at the time," Tulsa County District Judge Carlos Chappelle said during a hearing that addressed the church's previous motion for a ruling in their favor.
But Chappelle denied the defense's motion on other fronts, saying it would be up to a jury to determine whether Guts Church is liable for the death of George L. Clinkscale III.
Clinkscale, a 24-year-old father of two, was pronounced dead at St. Francis Hospital about 3 a.m. Sept. 22 after boxing in the final bout of Guts Church's Fight Night VI in Tulsa, according to court records.
Clinkscale reportedly suffered from cramping and severe pain after the unsanctioned fight, witnesses said. A medical examiner's report lists his probable cause of death as "sudden exertional death" resulting from "complications of sickle cell trait."
Clinkscale's family filed suit in Tulsa County District Court in October, alleging negligence on behalf of the church and pastors Bill Scheer and Sandy Scheer and requesting an unspecified amount of actual damages in excess of $75,000 plus punitive damages.
Chappelle's order to accept, in part, the defense's motion followed defense attorney arguments that Fight Night VI fell into cracks in Oklahoma law that since September have been remedied by lawmakers.
"We know there's no law, because the Legislature is now enacting laws," defense attorney Derrick Teague told Chappelle.
The new law, introduced in February and enacted in May, gives more power to the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission and local law enforcement officials to shut down and prosecute organizers of unsanctioned boxing matches such as the event at Guts Church.
Plaintiffs attorney Terry Brennan argued that the event nonetheless should have been licensed and approved through the athletic commission.
"It was an unlicensed, unsanctioned and unlawful event," he said. "The only distinction of the new law is that it provides them (authorities) teeth."
Also discussed at the hearing was whether Clinkscale's signed release to indemnify the church precluded the need for medical precautions at ringside and if the church was negligent in observing widely adopted boxing laws.
The next hearing, in late September, will address a plaintiffs motion for summary judgment. Pending the judge's rulings then, the case could go to a jury trial in February, defense attorneys said.
Original Print Headline: Church's fatal boxing event legal, judge says
Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367
Judge Carlos Chappelle: He said it would be up to a jury to determine whether Guts Church is liable for George L. Clinkscale III's death