Florida Supreme Court hears case in FAMU band hazing death
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court seemed skeptical last Wednesday that a former Florida A&M band member was participating in a competition and shouldn't have been convicted of beating a bandmate to death under the state's anti-hazing law.
Defense attorney Rupak Shah argued that the state's anti-hazing law makes an exception for “customary athletic events or other similar contests or competitions.'' He's representing Dante Martin, 30, who is serving a 6-year, 5-month sentence for manslaughter and felony hazing in the 2011 death of Marching 100 drum major Robert Champion.
Champion, 26, of Decatur, Georgia, died after band members beat him in a hazing ritual called “Crossing Bus C.'' He was pummeled as he made his way from the front to the rear of a band bus after a football game in Orlando.
“If an activity constitutes a competition, then it's not considered to be hazing,'' Shah said.“There are brutal customary athletic events; there are brutal similar contests.'' “In which people are beaten?'' asked Justice Charles Canady.
“What customary competition is there a beating of someone?'' added Justice Peggy Quince.
Shah cited boxing and mixed martial arts as two examples.
Still, Justice Barbara Pariente added her skepticism.
Shah said that a dictionary definition of competition is perseverance and endurance to overcome an obstacle.”
Florida A&M's famed Marching 100 band has played at Super Bowls and before U.S. presidents. It was suspended for more than a year after Champion's death and began performing again at the beginning of the 2013 football season.
"If an activity constitutes a competition, then it's not considered to be hazing," the defense argued to the Florida Supreme Court.