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UPDATE: Prosecutors say FAMU band members knowingly hazed drum major

Robert Champion

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

Prosecutors say Florida A&M University band members knew they were hazing when they took part in a brutal ritual that left a drum major dead.

Jurors on Tuesday heard from another drum major who said all students were required to sign a document explaining the state’s hazing law.

Keon Hollis was the first witness called in the trial of a former band member charged in the 2011 death of Robert Champion. Hollis went through the same ritual on the same night that Champion did, a ritual called “crossing bus c.”

Hollis said every year he signed an anti-hazing document.

“They basically would just send university administrators to band practice on occasions to just talk about it and just make us sign a waiver that we wouldn’t participate in the activities.”

Band member Dante Martin is charged with manslaughter and hazing in Champion’s death. He’s accused of leading the bus crossing, in which Champion faced a gauntlet of students who beat him with belts, mallets, drum sticks and their fists. Champion later died of hemorrhagic shock.

Fifteen students were charged in Champion’s death. Most have had their cases settled.

During opening arguments earlier in the morning defense attorney Dino Michaels argued Champion was in a position of leadership himself as drum major and that he engaged in the ritual willingly.

Michaels said it will be up to jurors to decide whether the ritual was hazing.

Before the day’s proceedings Champion’s family gathered outside the Orange County courtroom for a moment of silence and prayer.

His mother, Pam Champion, said the family has traveled from Decatur, Ga., for every court hearing.

“And each time we come here, and we leave with such disappointment because it seems as if my son’s life didn’t matter. It’s hard.”

The family members said they are seeking justice for all hazing victims.


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About Amy Green

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Amy Green covers the environment for 90.7 News. She is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a regular contributor for NPR, PEOPLE, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor and many other top news organizations. Her in-progress book on the Everglades is under contract with Johns ... Read Full Bio »

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