Judge to decide civil lawsuit in FAMU hazing death



ORLANDO, Fla. - A judge spent the day Wednesday hearing arguments in a civil lawsuit over the hazing death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion.

Investigators said Champion died following a hazing ritual on a bus after the Florida Classic game in Orlando last November.

By May, 13 suspects had been arrested.

Champion's parents believe the school didn't do enough to stop the ongoing hazing.

According to a WFTV legal analyst, because Champion was not forced onto the charter bus the night he was hazed, the analyst said FAMU has a strong case.

In court Wednesday, Rick Mitchell, an attorney for the university, showed the judge statements from Champion's roommate, who said the two contemplated going through a band hazing ritual all season long and made a decision to do it after the Florida Classic to get respect.

"By getting on that bus, and staying on that bus, Mr. Champion clearly induced the other participants to haze him," said Mitchell.

Mitchell argued that Champion's willingness to participate in the illegal activity should stop his estate from collecting money.

Champion had also signed two university "anti-hazing" pledges and agreed not to haze others or let anyone haze him. One of the documents was signed three months before he was beaten to death.

"We cannot hold a state entity, financially liable for the intentional acts of the participants in this event," Mitchell said.

Champion's family attorneys said a victim can't be blamed for his own death and said the university should've done more to abolish the culture of hazing that took Champion's life.

"It's for a jury ultimately to decide how to allocate the fault or the responsibility for the death of Mr. Champion," said Champion family attorney Ken Bell.

The family is also suing Fabulous Coach Lines and the bus driver.

Their attorneys argued that they had no duty to protect Champion once he sneaked back on the bus with others.