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In FAMU hazing trial, judge limits use of the word “hazing”

Robert Champion

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

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A judge is limiting the use of the word “hazing” at trial in the case of a Florida A&M drum major who died after being beaten on a bus after a football match in Orlando.

The judge ruled Wednesday after hearing from defense attorneys who argued jurors – not witnesses – should decide what constitutes hazing.

Defense attorney Dino Michaels said many students misused the word during depositions.

Judge Rene Roche allowed the word only during opening and closing arguments and with witnesses who have a clear understanding of the word’s statutory meaning.

“I’m concerned about witnesses who really don’t know anything about what the statute says throwing this word around and possibly misleading the jury or prejudicing the defendants here.”

Prosecutors and defense attorneys also agreed to leave Robert Champion’s sexual orientation out of the trial.

Orange-Osceola County State Attorney Jeff Ashton said allegations Champion was targeted because he was gay are speculative.

Roche denied a defense request that she reconsider an earlier ruling validating the constitutionality of the state’s hazing law.

Fifteen former band members were charged with manslaughter and hazing in Champion’s death in 2011. All but four have had their cases settled.

The remaining four are scheduled to go on trial Monday.

 


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