Trial delay sought in hazing case to challenge rulings
By TERRY VAU DELL/MediaNews Group
Article Launched: 02/11/2008 07:42:47 PM PST
Attorneys for three former Chico fraternity officials charged with criminal hazing, will seek a stay of the upcoming jury trial to challenge prior legal rulings in the case.
They are contesting several issues, including the failure of the prosecution to name specific victims in the criminal complaint.
The Butte County District Attorney’s Office takes the position it is not obligated to do so, because the victim is the state of California.
Three officials for the now-defunct Beta Theta Pi fraternity are the first people to be charged in California under an anti-hazing statute passed by the state Legislature last summer, dubbed “Matt’s Law,” in memory of Matthew Carrington, a 21-year-old Chico State University freshman who died during a fraternity initiation rite in the spring of 2005.
Beta Theta Pi ‘s former president, Christopher David Bizot, 23, vice president Michael Francis Murphy, 22, and fraternity pledge-master, Matthew William Krupp, 22, are accused of subjecting as many as 13 fraternity pledges to excessive calisthenics and immersion in “unhealthful ice baths” during rush activities at the East Third Street fraternity house last April .
If convicted by a jury, they could face up to one year in jail and $5,000 in fines.
Beta Theta Pi fraternity had it’s local charter revoked in the wake of the alleged hazing incident.
On Monday, Krupp’s attorney, Dane Cameron, asked for a stay of the trio’s scheduled April 14 Butte County Superior Court jury
trial, pending the outcome of a writ petition he planned to file challenging the prosecutor’s refusal to list specific hazing victims by name.
The defense contends the identities are essential to defending the misdemeanor hazing charges.
Assigned Judge William Lamb postponed a ruling on the stay request until the writ is actually filed. A status hearing on the matter is set later this month.
Lamb Monday ruled on some 47 items of evidence, which the defense claims the prosecution must turn over prior to the trial.
Among the evidence sought was the name of any medical experts or specific evidence on which the prosecution is relying to prove the activities engaged in by the Chico fraternity pledges were “likely to cause serious bodily injury.”
Deputy district attorney Michael Sanderson replied he plans to call no such experts nor any forensic evidence during the hazing trial.
William Mayo, Bizot’s lawyer, wondered aloud how a lay jury could resolve the central question in the case without some medical guidance. He declined, however, to say whether the defense plans to call its own expert to testify in the case.
Mayo and Murphy’s attorney, Michael Erpino, said outside of court they will likely seek an appellate review of some of Lamb’s discovery rulings Monday, as well as a prior decision by Judge Tamara Mosbarger, rejecting a proposed “civil compromise” in the Chico hazing case.
All 13 Beta Theta Pi pledges had agreed to accept $1 apiece from each of the fraternity defendants in return for the criminal charges being dismissed.
The pledges reportedly signed written declarations stating they felt they were never in any danger during the fraternity initiation rite.
Siding with the prosecution, Mosbarger ruled last month that allowing the former fraternity officers to avoid prosecution by paying only $1 would undermine the purpose of Matt’s Law “to prohibit all dangerous hazing practices in order to protect the lives of our young people.”