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Emotional closing testimony in Delaware hazing death trial

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Excerpt: Attorney Douglas Fierberg told the jury that what members of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity were doing to Brett Griffin and other pledges was terrible and wrong and was a clear violation of Delaware’s law on hazing.

“Is it moral? Is it right what was done to Brett and the rest of the pledges?” he asked, recalling such rituals as “onion night” where pledges were forced to eat a raw onion covered in hot sauce, causing some to vomit.

He said that the testimony at trial showed defendants Jason Aaron, the former chapter president, and Matthew Siracusa, the former pledge master, were deeply involved in planning and carrying out the hazing of the pledges, which he said conditioned Griffin and the other pledges to drink to excess on Nov. 7, 2008, “Big Brother” night.

Griffin, 18, of Kendall Park, N.J. died early on Nov. 8, 2008 of alcohol poisoning and a medical expert testified he had the equivalent of a full bottle of Southern Comfort in his system when he died.

He also noted that it took 9 minutes after a fraternity brother noticed that a passed-out Griffin had started to foam at the mouth – according to the timestamp on a text he sent – before anyone called 911 for help. “Nobody gave a damn at all,” Fierberg said, suggesting the brothers used that time to hide the beer and liquor before authorities arrived.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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