The Drumbeat of a Florida Crime: Did Florida A&M Drum Major Ask for the Hazing That Killed Him?

May 28, 2012 by David S. Seltzer

Last November, 26 year-old Robert Champion, a drum major at Florida A&M, lost his life in a tragic case of hazing-gone-wrong. His case took a decisively strange turn last week, when one of the defendants alleged that Champion had asked for the hazing.

"It's a respect thing," said band member Jonathan Boyce, "He was wanting to do it... all season."

A recent New York Times article summarized the brutality that Champion endured: "[As Champion] entered the dark bus, [he] was pummeled with hands, drumsticks, bass drum mallets, straps and even an orange cone. At least 15 band members struck and kicked Mr. Champion as he tried to reach the back of the bus."

Boyce's suggestion that Champion wanted to be subjected to this treatment directly contradicts comments made by the victim's father, who has asserted that his son got hazed precisely because he opposed the ritual, which had become a dark tradition among FAMU's Marching 100 band.

Champion's hazing death became national news not only because of the brutal details but also because of the band's prominence. It is (or at least it was) one of the most renowned institutions of its kind in the country. Among other gigs, the band has played the Super Bowl.

All told, 13 people have been charged in connection with the drum major's death: 11 face third-degree felony charges, while two face misdemeanors.

If you're a Florida criminal defendant, what lessons can you draw from this tragedy?

#1: Cases have a strange way of getting twisted at the strangest times.

You can never fully anticipate what the prosecution might have in store for you. That means…

#2: Effective preparation is crucial.

The more you prepare, and the more systematically you do so, the more difficult it will be for prosecutors to "catch you off guard" and complicate your defense.

#3: Retaining a reputable, experienced Florida criminal lawyer can mean the difference between a lengthy jail sentence and freedom.

The team at Seltzer Law, P.A. can help you develop an appropriate, systematic, and strategic defense to your charges. Connect with us today online, or call us for immediate free help -- day or night -- at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333).