Manslaughter and Hazing Trial Begins for Former FAMU Band Member

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Jury selection began Monday in the trial for a man charged with felony hazing and manslaughter in the death of a Florida A&M University drum major nearly three years ago. Dante Martin is one of four former FAMU band members who still faces charges for beating 26-year-old Robert Champion, whose 2011 death was ruled a homicide in the course of hazing. Prosecutors said Martin was the "president" of the bus where Champion was pummeled with drum sticks, fists and mallets as he tried to make his way down the aisle of the vehicle, according to NBC affiliate WESH.

Martin has pleaded not guilty. Defense attorneys plan to argue that Florida's anti-hazing law is written vaguely enough for the deadly incident to be considered a "competition," according to WESH. "Hazing does not include customary athletic events or other similar contests or competitions," the law states.

Eleven former band members have had their cases settled, and several of them will be called to the stand as witnesses to describe what happened during the incident, according to The Associated Press. Three other band members were also scheduled to begin trial on Monday, but defense attorneys entered a late challenge to an additional hazing charge, the AP reported.

Champion's death uncovered the violent hazing ritual practiced by FAMU's 100 Band, known as "crossing Bus C." The prominent marching band was suspended for over a year, and the scandal led to the resignation of FAMU's president.



— Elisha Fieldstadt, with The Associated Press