Fort Lauderdale Homicide Watch: Murder Can't be Proven in Hazing Case
Fort Lauderdale homicide defense attorneys have been watching with interest the case out of Orlando, in which college students from Florida A&M University have been implicated in the death of a marching band student during a hazing ritual.
In order to prove homicide in Fort Lauderdale, or anywhere else in the state, prosecutors have to show that according to FL Statute 782.04, the accused unlawfully killed another human being - premeditated or not. Specifically, in a first or second-degree murder case, the state must show that not only did the person die, but that you took direct action which resulted in his or her death and that you did so intentionally.
In a manslaughter case, as defined in FL Statute 782.07, prosecutors have to prove that the person died as a result of your culpable negligence. That just means that while you may not have intended for the person to die, they were killed as a result of an action you took that you knew or should have known might have resulted in their death.
What's interesting in this case is that even though the A&M drum major is said to have died as a result of beating injuries inflicted by his fellow band mates, who were aboard a charter bus at the time, no one is being charged with second-degree murder or manslaughter.
You would think that in a case like this, with multiple suspects and multiple witnesses, that proving guilt would be simple. Where prosecutors ran into trouble was that they could identify no singular injury by any person or persons that resulted in the young man's death.
So instead, prosecutors have charged 13 individuals with hazing, as defined in FL Statute 1006.63. Under this law, hazing involves any physical brutality that includes (but is not limited to): whipping, branding, beating, forced consumption of food, alcohol or drugs, forced physical activity, exposure to the elements or any other forced physical activity. Additionally, it could include an activity that would subject someone to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, forced conduct that would result in extreme embarrassment, or forced exclusion from social contact.
Hazing is specifically limited to students, which could mean middle school through college.
Hazing can be punished either as a third-degree felony, which would result in a maximum prison sentence of five years, or a first-degree misdemeanor, which could result in a maximum 1 year behind bars.
In this case, the 13 individuals are facing different levels of the charge - some felony, some misdemeanor. They were arrested after the 26-year-old student was reportedly beaten to death aboard the bus following a game at a rival school.
Some legal analysts have speculated that the prosecutor in this case could have opted for manslaughter charges. But Fort Lauderdale homicide defense attorneys know that it would have been difficult to prove, because as the prosecutor himself stated, while many allegedly participated in the beating, there wasn't enough evidence that any single person was responsible.
If you are facing criminal charges in Fort Lauderdale, Broward or Palm Beach counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Prosecutors opt for hazing charges in FAMU case, By MIKE SCHNEIDER, The Associated Press