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Movement to roll back Chad’s Hazing Law in Florida

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WFU Excerpt

A statewide organization of criminal defense attorneys wants to support a former Florida A&M University band member in his challenge to the constitutionality of a state anti-hazing law.

The Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Thursday in support of Dante Martin, who was convicted of manslaughter and hazing charges in the high-profile 2011 hazing death of FAMU “Marching 100” drum major Robert Champion.

The group believes the law is unconstitutional because it is overly broad, and does not “clearly criminalize his conduct.”

“The statute itself provides for students to receive advance notice of the anti-hazing policy from academic institutions, but no such policy or notice was evidenced,” said the motion.

M. Stephen Turner and Michael Ufferman are counsel for the association. Turner said the statute is vague and unclear in what conduct and to what extent it applies to.

“While the statute is certainly clear that if you’re initiated into a fraternity or sorority, and you administer some sort of harmful act to someone than that makes you guilty of hazing,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s completely unclear as to what activities are connected.”

In the motion, the lawyers association said they believe their “views may be helpful to demonstrate the unfair potential criminal responsibility of college and university students in this State. College and university students should not be charged or convicted or serve jail time and have their lives and future careers ruined because of a limited connection with a ritual or tradition of a school organization that members may choose to participate or engage in, but that is not required, compelled or forced upon them in any way.”

Champion was injured in Orlando during a band ritual known as “crossing Bus C.” Martin was part of the percussion section, and was the alleged “ringleader” of the hazing incident. He is serving six and a half years in prison.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

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 current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily--http://realalaskadaily.com and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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