ORLANDO, Fla. — Jury selection began Monday for the first of four members of Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) marching band on charges of felony hazing and manslaughter.
The trial for Dante Martin, expected to last a week, comes nearly three years after drum major Robert Champion (pictured) was beaten during a hazing initiation that shocked the nation. The incident unveiled the horrors of hazing, not just at FAMU, but on campuses across the country.
Judge Renee Roche delayed the trial for defendants Benjamin McNamee, Aaron Golson, and Darryl Cearnel after their attorneys said they did not have the opportunity to question witnesses about hazing charges that were added to the case, according to the Associated Press. All four have pleaded not guilty in the death of Champion, a 26-year-old native of Decatur, Ga.
The incident occurred in November 2011, just hours after a football game in Orlando, Fla., when band members reportedly boarded Bus C outside a hotel. The men attacked Champion and two other band members as they tried to escape an attack from the front to the back of the bus.
After making it to the back, Champion vomited and complained of trouble breathing. He soon fell unconscious and couldn’t be revived. He died from hemorrhagic shock and his autopsy showed extensive internal bleeding.
Fifteen former band members originally were charged with manslaughter and hazing in the death of Champion. All but the four remaining defendants have had their cases settled, and several of them will be called as witnesses to describe what happened on the bus.
Florida State Attorney Jeff Ashton said at a recent hearing that the students boarded the bus to break the law in the hazing attack, the news site writes. But defense attorneys have challenged Florida’s anti-hazing law, calling the measure vague. They argue that what transpired on the bus could be construed as a competition, not hazing.