Manslaughter Conviction in Florida A&M Hazing Death Upheld
The appeal challenged the state’s hazing law for being overly broad.
A Florida appeals court upheld the convictions of a former band member who was arrested after another student was killed in a hazing ritual in 2011.
The ruling ends a case that focused on the state’s hazing law, which defense attorneys called overly broad, according to chipleypaper.com.
Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion died of injuries he suffered Nov. 19, 2011 during a band hazing ritual known as “crossing Bus C.” During the ritual, band members would attempt to force their way from the front of the bus to the back while their band mates assaulted them.
Champion passed out following completion of the ritual after being struck repeatedly and was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Dante Martin, a band member and “president” of Bus C in 2011, was initially found guilty of manslaughter, felony hazing resulting in death and two counts of misdemeanor hazing.
Martin, now 29, and his lawyers argued in the appeal that the judge hearing his trial made a series of errors during the case, including allowing autopsy photos of Champion to be shown during the trial. Martin’s lawyers also criticized the state’s hazing law, but the three-judge panel rejected that argument in their ruling.
“The defendant asserts that Florida’s hazing statute encroaches upon constitutionally protected speech or conduct and, thus, the statute is overbroad; however, he does not articulate how the statute is susceptible of application to speech or conduct protected by the First Amendment… The defendant has not demonstrated that the hazing statute criminalizes any speech or conduct protected by the First Amendment; therefore, his overbreadth challenge fails,” the ruling stated.
Martin was sentenced to 77 months in prison and is currently an inmate at the Wakulla Work Camp.
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