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.

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