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Jury selection starts in FAMU hazing trial

Former FAMU bandmember Robert Champion died after a hazing ritual in Orlando in 2011.
Former FAMU bandmember Robert Champion died after a hazing ritual in Orlando in 2011.

Jury selection starts Monday in the trial of a former band member charged in the 2011 death of a Florida A&M University drum major.

At the heart of the trial will be Florida's hazing law.

Robert Champion died after what prosecutors say was a hazing ritual.

Rick Escobar, defense attorney for former band member Dante Martin, says the state's hazing law is so poorly written students couldn't have had a clear understanding of what is hazing.

"The only way that the appellate courts are going to be able to hear these particular arguments on the constitutionality of the statute is if we go to trial, and that's scary. It's dangerous, but it's the right thing to do."

The judge already has ruled against defense motions challenging the law's constitutionality.

Champion died after a facing a gauntlet of band members on a bus who beat him with belts, mallets and drum sticks. The band was in Orlando for a football game.

Fifteen former band members were charged with manslaughter and hazing in Champion's death. All but four, including Martin, have had their cases settled.

Amy Green covered the environment for WMFE until 2023. Her work included the 2020 podcast DRAINED.
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