Parents of Robert Champion say hazing must be stopped

Jury seated in FAMU hazing death trial

ORLANDO, Fla. – The parents of Robert Champion, the FAMU drum major who died in a hazing ritual in Orlando, spoke before Day 2 of jury selection in the trial of the man accused of masterminding the incident.


Dante Martin is on trial for his involvement in a hazing ritual that resulted in the death of Champion in Orlando in 2011.

Champion's parents, Robert and Pamela, of Atlanta, will attend the trial and held a moment of silence in front of the Orange County Courthouse before answering questions from the media, saying that hazing has to be stopped.

"My family and I are here this morning to take a few moments of silence in remembrance of my son," Pamela Champion said.  "Not only in the remembrance of my son, but to remember all the victims that have lost their life of hazing."

Pamela Champion added that she hopes justice is served in her son's death.

"I don't know what to expect when I go into this courthouse, but I'm hoping I don't have to ride home again a long ride with tears in my eyes trying to understand, trying to figure out why he's been discarded like this," she said.

Pamela Champion said her son's memory serves as a daily reminder that hazing must be stopped.

"If it wasn't for Robert, you wouldn't know today the ugliness that was being done behind a band," she said.  "If it wasn't for Robert, you would not have known the fact that he has saved lives because he brought about the change and he, as my husband says, cracked the wall, broke the wall, and it's up to us to tear down that wall.  (Taking part in hazing) is a mindset.  It's not a disease that cannot be cured, and it takes everybody to say this is it.  No more."

Jury selection continued Tuesday morning, and a jury of four women and two men -- none of whom is African-American -- was later seated.  FAMU is a historically black university.

Opening statements were set to begin later Tuesday.

On Monday, five of Martin's family members were in the courtroom.

Following Champion's tragic death, his parents filed lawsuits against the company that owned the charter bus and FAMU, claiming that the school fostered a culture of hazing. The Champions settled with Fabulous Coach Lines, but their lawsuit against the university is ongoing. 

Champion died after performing at a FAMU football game in Orlando in November 2011.  Deputies say he was kicked and punched by other band members while walking down the aisle of "Bus C," a hazing ritual other band members say Martin organized.

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