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Defense attorneys back challenge to anti-hazing law

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 Attorneys on Thursday asked the state Supreme Court for permission to file a friend-of-the-court brief in an appeal by Dante Martin, who was convicted in the high-profile 2011 hazing death of FAMU “Marching 100” drum major Robert Champion.

Martin was found guilty of manslaughter, felony hazing resulting in death and two counts of misdemeanor hazing in the death of Champion, who was injured in Orlando during a band ritual known as "crossing Bus C."

During the ritual, band members were struck repeatedly as they crossed from the front of a bus to the back.

Champion passed out after finishing the crossing and later was pronounced dead at a hospital.

In an appeal to the Supreme Court, Martin's attorney contends a state anti-hazing law is unconstitutional, at least in part because it is overly broad.

In the request Thursday to the Supreme Court, the criminal defense attorneys' group said its “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.” 

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Martin's appeal but has not set a date for oral arguments, according to an online docket.