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Tiffany Startz Acquitted in Party Punch Death

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on October 17, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

An Illinois judge has ruled that Tiffany Startz is not guilty in the party punch death of rapper John Powell.

A fellow partygoer had offered $5 to anyone willing to take a punch from Startz. Powell, who was performing at the party, agreed to the bet. When his head snapped back, a vein burst open and caused a deadly brain injury.

Prosecutors charged Startz with reckless conduct and battery. She successfully argued that Powell had consented to the hit.

Tiffany Startz is lucky that Illinois recognizes consent as a defense to battery, as it is not available in every jurisdiction. She's also lucky it applied to the party punch death.

When allowed, consent is a very limited defense. It only applies to the agreed upon activity.

Take, for example, two football players. They have both consented to receive hits within the scope of the game. The intensity and placement of those hits is defined by the rules.

But what if one player goes beyond those rules? What if he purposefully attacks the other player's head in a foreign way? Or continues to hit after a blown whistle? What if these actions cause severe head trauma?

The injured player did not agree to these types of contact. Therefore, consent would not be a defense if the other player is charged with criminal battery.

Cell phone video presented at trial clearly showed that John Powell consented to one punch, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. It depicts the rapper with his arms behind his back and chin forward.

Tiffany Startz delivered that one punch, and nothing more. She played within the rules, and is therefore is not liable for the party punch death.

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