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12 charged in hazing death of student from Georgia

Marching bands add bombastic, colorful and entertaining flavor to sporting events and parades around the country, often lead by a charismatic high-stepping drum major. For one unfortunate band member, however, his marching band experience ended not with an up-tempo march but with a solemn funeral dirge. The death of a university student has resulted in criminal charges against a dozen students and a wrongful death lawsuit against the university.

Georgia residents may recall that the student, a 26-year-old drum major at the time, succumbed to a severe beating as part of the marching band's hazing ritual. The reckless conduct of the other students caused twelve of them to be charged with manslaughter, upgrading many of the accused from previous charges of felony hazing. The previous charges presented a lower bar for the prosecutors because they would not have to prove who delivered the actual blow that caused the deadly injury.

In addition to the allegations the former students are facing, the deceased's parents, who live in Decatur, GA, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against FAMU. The university previously offered a $300,000 settlement, but the parents have decided to proceed with the suit instead of accepting the compensation offer.

Wrongful death happens when the negligence or misconduct of an individual, company or entity (as the parents allege here) cause the death of a person. Many circumstances can lead to such a charge, including medical malpractice, an airplane accident or a death during a supervised activity. An experienced personal injury attorney can assist in obtaining the best possible result in wrongful death cases

It remains unclear if the university showed carelessness in allowing the hazing to occur. It is clear, however, that being part of a joyful entertaining student group such as a marching band should never lead to death.

Source: My Fox NY, "12 charged with manslaughter in FAMU death," Kyle Hightower, March 14, 2013

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