ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — An attorney for one of the defendants in the hazing death of a Florida A&M drum major says his client is going to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors.A lawyer for 24-year-old Caleb Jackson said at a court hearing Friday...
The latest news about the FAMU hazing death of Robert Champion is that at least one of the 12 band members charged will plead guilty to one count of manslaughter and one count of felony hazing. Interestingly, Florida has one of the toughest anti-hazing statutes in the nation. This was prompted by the 2001 death of University of Miami student Chad Meredith. Meredith, 18, was rushing the Kappa Sigma fraternity when he attempted to swim the campus lake at night as part of a hazing ritual. Too intoxicated to make the swim, Meredith struggled and it was hours before his body was pulled from the water. At the time of his death, his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit.
Meredith's parents sued the fraternity's insurance carrier and were awarded $12.6 million (with 45% fault assigned to the fraternity president, 45% to the fraternity vice president, and 10% to Meredith himself.) This remains the largest verdict ever awarded for the hazing death of a fraternity pledge.
Many were outraged at the lack of criminal charges for the fraternity members that pressured Meredith into the hazing ritual. In response to this, a Florida legislator authored the Chad Meredith Act. The Act was signed into law by Governor Bush and allows for criminal charges in hazing cases. (Florida Statute 1006.63) Hazing that results in death or serious injury is a third-degree felony which carries up to a 5 year prison term. Though the law has created tremendous awareness nationally, cases like this one out of FAMU show that lawmakers/fraternities/universities still need to do more to guard against senseless tragedy.