Florida Hazing May Have Been A Homicide

Band Hazing Could Be More

Most parents worry about their children when they go to college, but very few worry about their children dying. This is the harsh reality that the parents of Robert Champion are now facing since the death of their son in November 2011. Champion was a drum major at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. He died after traumatic injuries he received during a hazing incident. The family is now prepared to sue the school and the bus company that transported their son during the incident.

Florida A & M University is known for its marching band and many are familiar with the hazing that occurs on it. The University has made official statements in the past against hazing, and even has an anti hazing policy, but the practice still continued. Historically, students who wanted to advance in the prestigious marching band would be subjected to painful hazing rituals by upperclassmen, but a death has never occurred.

Since Champion’s death, questions have been looming about how it could have become fatal. Champion was not the only student hazed that night, and he was in good health prior to the incident. Some are beginning to wonder whether Champion received a more severe attack then other band members.

Champion’s parents believe that was the case and were doubtful that he would voluntarily be hazed. According to those who knew him, Robert Champion was very outspoken against the hazing practices at FAMU. As a leader on the marching band, his willingness to not participate historically made him a target. Champion’s lawyer, a Florida wrongful death lawyer, maintains that the hazing was retaliatory.

Band director Julian White suggested otherwise however. While he also believed that Champion may not have voluntarily participate in the hazing, he felt it was not due to his stance against hazing. White believes Champion was targeted because of his sexual orientation, and that the death was due to a hate crime and not the institution of hazing.

Had Champion been the target of a hate crime, those arrested will be sentenced more severely than normal. Florida has a hate crime law that charges those guilty of it one degree higher. This means those found guilty of manslaughter would serve a life sentence rather than 15 years. It also means the school could call the incident an independent act of violence.

Hazing, however, is also illegal in Florida. When it results in death it is a third degree felony for those who participated. Third degree felonies have a $5000 or up to 5 years in jail. Hazing convictions also include statutes that sanction and prevent the organizations that allowed hazing from operating. The band that played at President Obama’s inauguration has a lot to lose.

Since Champion’s death, four band members, as well as the band director, were expelled and later reinstated. Champion’s death has been ruled a homicide as his death was the result of internal bleeding caused by blunt force trauma. Sadly however, nearly two months after his death, no one has been charged. The Champion’s family Florida wrongful death lawyer is not waiting to see what happens though. These parents are searching for their answers now.

Author: Amir Ladan
A former assistant state attorney for Orange/Osceola Counties, Amir has handled thousands of cases and dozens of trials, ranging from DUI and traffic offenses to murder, in both adult and juvenile court.

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