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Florida Supreme Court Hears Appeal In FAMU Hazing Death

Image: Florida Supreme Court building in Tallahassee

Image: Florida Supreme Court building in Tallahassee

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The Florida Supreme Court heard an appeal Wednesday for Dante Martin, who was convicted of manslaughter in the hazing death of a Florida A&M University band member.

Drum major Robert Champion died in 2011 in Orlando during a ritual that involved being beaten by a gauntlet of band members with belts, mallets and drum sticks.

Martin’s attorneys were appealing his conviction on the grounds that Florida’s hazing statue is unconstitutionally vague, and that participation in the ritual was voluntary.

Attorney Rupak Shah said the manslaughter conviction doesn’t hold if the ritual fits the state’s definition of competition instead of hazing.

“When it’s done in an activity, or conduct, or manner that has competitive features, then at that point it would sufficiently meet the criteria for a competition,” said Shah.

Shah offered boxing as an example. The state refuted that example, saying boxing is a structured sport with equal participation.

Assistant Attorney General Kristin Davenport focused her arguments on consent. “Consent is not a defense under this statute. This statute is trying to protect society from exactly this type of situation.”

More than a dozen former FAMU band members were charged in the death. Martin received the harshest sentence of more than six years.


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About Catherine Welch

Catherine Welch