Appeal sought in FAMU hazing death

By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
August 11, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- A hazing ritual at Florida A&M University took the life of a drum major six years ago.

Now, the one student still in jail after the death is appealing his conviction.

Following the death of Robert Champion, the band was suspending and strict anti-hazing policies were put in place.

This year's band members were in middle or high school when the death occurred.

"We have moved forward," said FAMU band director Shelby Chipman. "These kids understand the new culture that exists.

"We spoke to them last night about our policies on hazing and anti-hazing, as well as the repercussions of those might even endure any such things," Chipman continued.

Dante Martin is serving a six-year sentence for serving as the ring leader when students beat Chapman. He is challenging the constitutionality of the anti-hazing law in the state's highest court, where the state's Criminal Defense Attorneys argue it was vague.

"The state fails to make it clear who it applies to," said Stephen Turner of the Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys.

If the court finds the law unconstitutional, there is worry it will send the wrong message. But, it's not a fear University Ombudsman Bryan Smith shares.

The Supreme Court has yet to set a date for hearing the appeal.

Dante Smith is the only former band member still in prison. In all, 13 people were charged with a crime following the drum major's death. FAMU settled with the Champion family for $1.1 million and has made an apology.