Prosecutor, defense make closing arguments in hazing case

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FAMU Band Members Charged With Manslaughter in Hazing Death

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The three remaining defendants on trial for the hazing death of a Florida A&M drum major beat him on a bus because it was tradition, not because they disliked him, a prosecutor said Friday during closing arguments.

Robert Champion's death was the result of a hazing tradition that was ingrained in the school's famed band, said State Attorney Jeff Ashton.

"Tradition: As a result of that, Robert Champion was beaten to death by his friends. They didn't beat him because they hated him. It was a tradition," Ashton said.

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Prosecutor, defense make closing arguments in hazing case
Dante Martin, center, waits for jury selection Monday, Oct. 27, 2014, as he stands trial in Orange County, Fla. Martin is one of four members of Florida A&M University's marching band charged with manslaughter and felony hazing in the death of Robert Champion. His attorneys Dino Michaels, left, and Richard Escobar look on. The trials of three of four members of Florida A&M University's marching band on charges of felony hazing and manslaughter have been postponed until April. But the trial of Dante Martin began with jury selection Monday, nearly three years after drum major Robert Champion died from being beaten. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, George Skene, Pool)
FILE- In this May 23, 2012 file photo, Pam Champion, right, and Robert Champion, Sr., left, hold a photo of their son, Robert, a Florida A&M University drum major who died in a hazing incident, as they are photographed in their attorney's office following a press conference in Atlanta. The trial for four band members charged in the hazing death of Champion begins Monday, Oct. 27, 2014 in Orlando, Fla.(AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
Jessie Baskin, right, looks at his attorney Christopher Smith in court Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013 in Orlando, Fla. Two more former band members charged in the hazing death of a Florida A&M drum major have accepted plea deals from prosecutors. Jessie Baskin, pleaded no contest to manslaughter. He faces up to nine years in prison when he's sentenced in February. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, George Skene, Pool)
Harold Finley gets fingerprinted after sentencing, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013 in Orlando, Fla. Harold Finley pleaded guilty to felony hazing Wednesday in relation to Robert Champion's November 2011 death. In exchange, prosecutors dropped manslaughter and misdemeanor hazing charges against him. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, George Skene, Pool)
Harold Finley listens to the judge Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013 in Orlando, Fla. Harold Finley pleaded guilty to felony hazing Wednesday in relation to Robert Champion's November 2011 death. In exchange, prosecutors dropped manslaughter and misdemeanor hazing charges against him. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, George Skene, Pool)
The Florida A&M University band performs Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, in Orlando, Fla. With trials still pending for several defendants in the hazing death of a former drum major, the band makes its return performance after a 22-month absence during FAMU’s season-opening football game against Mississippi Valley State.(AP Photo/John Raoux)
The Florida A&M University band performs Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, in Orlando, Fla. With trials still pending for several defendants in the hazing death of a former drum major, the band makes its return performance after a 22-month absence during FAMU’s season-opening football game against Mississippi Valley State.(AP Photo/John Raoux)
The Florida A&M University band performs Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, in Orlando, Fla., during FAMU’s season-opening football game against Mississippi Valley State, its first appearance in a football stadium in nearly 22 months after the 2011 hazing death of a drum major. All band performances were halted for FAMU's famed Marching 100 shortly after Robert Champion collapsed and died following a hazing ritual on a bus parked at an Orlando hotel in November 2011. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
The Florida A&M University band performs Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, in Orlando, Fla., during FAMU’s season-opening football game against Mississippi Valley State, its first appearance in a football stadium in nearly 22 months after the 2011 hazing death of a drum major. All band performances were halted for FAMU's famed Marching 100 shortly after Robert Champion collapsed and died following a hazing ritual on a bus parked at an Orlando hotel in November 2011. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
The Florida A&M University band takes the field before they perform Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, in Orlando, Fla. during FAMU’s season-opening football game against Mississippi Valley State, its first appearance in a football stadium in nearly 22 months after the 2011 hazing death of a drum major. All band performances were halted for FAMU's famed Marching 100 shortly after Robert Champion collapsed and died following a hazing ritual on a bus parked at an Orlando hotel in November 2011. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
The Florida A&M University band performs Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, in Orlando, Fla., during FAMU’s season-opening football game against Mississippi Valley State, its first appearance in a football stadium in nearly 22 months after the 2011 hazing death of a drum major. All band performances were halted for FAMU's famed Marching 100 shortly after Robert Champion collapsed and died following a hazing ritual on a bus parked at an Orlando hotel in November 2011. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
The Florida A&M University band performs at half time Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, in Orlando, Fla., during FAMU’s season-opening football game against Mississippi Valley State, its first appearance in a football stadium in nearly 22 months after the 2011 hazing death of a drum major. All band performances were halted for FAMU's famed Marching 100 shortly after Robert Champion collapsed and died following a hazing ritual on a bus parked at an Orlando hotel in November 2011. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
The Florida A&M University band performs Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, in Orlando, Fla., during FAMU’s season-opening football game against Mississippi Valley State, its first appearance in a football stadium in nearly 22 months after the 2011 hazing death of a drum major. All band performances were halted for FAMU's famed Marching 100 shortly after Robert Champion collapsed and died following a hazing ritual on a bus parked at an Orlando hotel in November 2011. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Pamela Champion, right, addresses the media along with husband Robert Champion, and family attorney Chris Chestnut as they call for public outcry for the university's band to not be allowed to perform and discuss further legal action, during a news conference, Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Atlanta. The pair are parents of FAMU drum major Robert Campion, Jr., who was slain in a 2011 hazing incident on the band bus while in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Pamela Champion, right, and husband Robert Champion, parents of FAMU drum major Robert Campion, Jr. flank attorney Chris Chestnut as they address the media as they call for public outcry for the university's band to not be allowed to perform and discuss further legal action, pictured during a news conference, Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Atlanta. Robert Campion, Jr., was slain in a 2011 hazing incident on the band bus while in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Pamela Champion, mother of FAMU drum major Robert Campion, Jr. is shown during a news conference, Tuesday, May 21, 2013, in Atlanta. Robert Campion, Jr., was slain in a 2011 hazing incident on the band bus while in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Former FAMU percussionist Caleb Jackson, left, who has been in jail since he was arrested nearly a year ago in the fatal hazing of drum major Robert Champion, looks toward his family Tuesday, April 16, 2013, before he entered a plea of 'no contest' in Orange County court. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
Former FAMU percussionist Caleb Jackson, left, confers with his attorney Chuck Hobbs Tuesday, April 16, 2013, in Orlando. Jackson pleaded 'no contest' to Judge Marc Lubet in the fatal hazing of drum major Robert Champion. FAMU drum major Robert Champion died in Orlando in November 2011 after he collapsed following what prosecutors say was a savage beating during a hazing ritual. Eleven other former Florida A&M band members are still facing manslaughter and felony hazing charges. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Red Huber)
Robert Champion, Sr, left, Pam Champion, center, and attorney Chris Chestnut, speak with members of the media at the Orange County Courthouse after a sentencing hearing for Brian Jones, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Orlando, Fla. Jones was the first of a dozen defendants to be sentenced in last year's hazing death of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion, Jr. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Florida A&M drum major Shawn Turner, right, appears in court with appointed public defender Margaret McDonnell at an arraignment Thursday, June 14 2012 in a Orange County courtroom in Orlando, Fla. Judge Marc Lubet,center, is seen in background. Lubet set an October 8 trial date for 11 marching band members charged with felony hazing in the death of of drum major Robert Champion in November 2011. Turner was in court because he had not hired an attorney. Most of the other defendants waived their appearances. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Red Huber, Pool)
Shawn Turner, Florida A&M University marching band drum major, leaves a Orange County courtroom Thursday, June 14, 2012 after having a public defender appointed to defend him on felony hazing charges in the November 2011 dearth of FAMU drum major Robert Champion. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Red Huber, Pool)
Shawn Turner, Florida A&M University marching band drum major, stands in a Orange County courtroom during an arraignment hearing Thursday, June 14, 2012 in Orlando, Fla. Circuit Judge Marc Lubet set an October 8 trial date for 11 marching band members charged with felony hazing in the death of of drum major Robert Champion in November 2011. Turner was appointed a public defender to defend him on felony hazing charges in the hazing death of Champion. Turner was in court because he had not hired an attorney. Most of the other defendants waived their appearances. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Red Huber, Pool)
Pam Champion, right, and Robert Champion, Sr., left, the parents of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion, who died in a hazing incident, are photographed in their attorney's office following a press conference Wednesday, May 23, 2012, in Atlanta. The Florida A&M drum major who died after being hazed on a bus was known for his opposition to hazing but agreed to go through a brutal initiation ritual because it was seen as an honor, according to interviews with band mates released Wednesday. Champion's parents said at a news conference Wednesday that they are having a hard time believing that their son volunteered to be hazed. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Robert Champion, Sr., the father of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion who died in a hazing incident, listens during a news conference with his wife Pam, right, and attorney Chis Chestnut, Wednesday, May 23, 2012, in Atlanta. The Florida A&M drum major who died after being hazed on a bus was known for his opposition to hazing but agreed to go through a brutal initiation ritual because it was seen as an honor, according to interviews with band mates released Wednesday. Champion's parents said at a news conference Wednesday that they are having a hard time believing that their son volunteered to be hazed. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Pam Champion, center, and Robert Champion, Sr., left, the parents of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion who died in a hazing incident, head into a news conference with their attorney Chris Chestnut, right, Wednesday, May 23, 2012, in Atlanta. The Florida A&M drum major who died after being hazed on a bus was known for his opposition to hazing but agreed to go through a brutal initiation ritual because it was seen as an honor, according to interviews with band mates released Wednesday. Champion's parents said at a news conference Wednesday that they are having a hard time believing that their son volunteered to be hazed. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Robert Champion, Sr., the father of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion who died in a hazing incident, holds a letter sent to him by a third grade admirer during a news conference Wednesday, May 23, 2012, in Atlanta. The Florida A&M drum major who died after being hazed on a bus was known for his opposition to hazing but agreed to go through a brutal initiation ritual because it was seen as an honor, according to interviews with band mates released Wednesday. Champion's parents said at a news conference Wednesday that they are having a hard time believing that their son volunteered to be hazed. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Pam Champion, left, and Robert Champion, Sr., the parents of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion who died in a hazing incident, sit in their attorney's office following a news conference Wednesday, May 23, 2012, in Atlanta. The Florida A&M drum major who died after being hazed on a bus was known for his opposition to hazing but agreed to go through a brutal initiation ritual because it was seen as an honor, according to interviews with band mates released Wednesday. Champion's parents said at a news conference Wednesday that they are having a hard time believing that their son volunteered to be hazed. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
This booking mug provided by the Leon County Sheriff's Office in Tallahassee, Fla., shows Ryan Dean, 21, on Friday May 4, 2012. Dean has been charged with felony hazing in the November 2011 death of 26-year-old FAMU drum major, Robert Champion. (AP Photo/Leon County Sheriff's Office)
This booking mug provided by the Leon County Sheriff's Office in Tallahassee, Fla., shows Jonathan Boyce, 24, on Friday May 4, 2012. Boyce has been charged with felony hazing in the November 2011 death of 26-year-old FAMU drum major, Robert Champion. (AP Photo/Leon County Sheriff's Office)
Pam Champion, the mother of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion, who died in a hazing incident, talks during a press conference following Wednesday's announcement of 13 people charged in her son's death, Thursday, May 3, 2012, in Atlanta. Pam Champion said Thursday that the only way to halt hazing in the program is to disband the marching band until further notice. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
This Wednesday May 2, 2012 booking photo made available by the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office shows Shawn Turner. Turner is charged with felony hazing for the death of 26-year-old FAMU drum major Robert Champion in November 2011. (AP Photo/Gadsden Sheriff's Office)
This May 2, 2012, booking mug provided by the Miami-Dade Police Department shows Jessie Baskin of Miami. Baskin has been charged with felony hazing in the November 2011 death of 26-year-old FAMU drum major, Robert Champion. (AP Photo/Miami-Dade Police Department)
This May 2, 2012, booking mug provided by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office shows Harold Finley. Finley has been charged with felony hazing in the November 2011 death of 26-year-old FAMU drum major, Robert Champion. (AP Photo/Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office)
This booking mug provided by the Miami-Dade Police Department shows Benjamin McNamee of Miami. McNamee has been charged with felony hazing in the November 2011 death of 26-year-old FAMU drum major, Robert Champion. (AP Photo/Miami-Dade Police Department)
In this booking photograph made available Wednesday May 2, 2012, by the Leon County Sheriff's Office in Tallahassee, Fla. , shows Rikki Willis, 24. Willis was arrested and charged with felony hazing that lead to the death of FAMU drum major, Robert Champion. State Attorney Lamar Lawson in Orlando said earlier Wednesday that 13 people were being charged in the beating death of 26-year-old Champion. Champion died in November 2011. (AP Photo/Leon County Sheriff's Office, HO)
In this booking photograph made available Wednesday May 2, 2012, by the Leon County Sheriff's Office in Tallahassee, Fla. , shows Caleb Jackson, 23. Jackson was arrested and charged with felony hazing resulting in the death of FAMU drum major Robert Champion. State Attorney Lamar Lawson in Orlando said earlier Wednesday that 13 people were being charged in the beating death of 26-year-old Champion. Champion died in November 2011. (AP Photo/Leon County Sheriff's Office, HO)
Pam Champion and her husband Robert Champion Sr. speak out about the death of their son Robert Jr., in Orlando, Fla., Monday, Jan. 9, 2012. Robert Champion Jr., was a 26-year-old Florida A&M University student and drum major who died last month after a hazing incident. Robert Champion's parents said they will sue the company that owns the bus where the hazing took place. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Brian Jones, looks at the parents of Robert Champion, Monday, October 22, 2012, as he apologizes to Champion's parents, Pam and Robert Champion Sr. before being sentenced in an Orlando, Florida courtroom in the Florida A&M University hazing incident. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images)
Florida A&M University Provost Cynthia Hughes-Harris, center, speaks at the start of the board of trustees conference call Monday Dec. 19, 2011, in Tallahassee, Fla. The trustees rejected a call by Florida Gov. Rick Scott that President James Ammons, shown in photo at top right, be suspended while the hazing death of a band member is investigated. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)
Members of the Florida A&M University band lead a horse drawn carriage carrying the casket of fellow band member Robert Champion following his funeral service Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 in Decatur, Ga. The 26-year-old was found dead on Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla. hotel after the school's football team lost to a rival. Authorities suspect hazing but have not released any further details. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
FILE - This Nov. 30, 2011 file photo shows a marching band leading a horse-drawn carriage carrying the casket of Florida A&M University band member Robert Champion following his funeral service in Decatur, Ga. Florida A&M University's famed marching band is suspended until 2013. President James Ammons told the school's board of trustees on Monday, May 14, 2012, that he will keep The Marching 100 off the field for the upcoming school year. Eleven FAMU band members face felony hazing charges stemming from the death Champion in November. Two others face misdemeanor counts. Ammons suspended the band soon after Champion's death, but his death exposed a culture of hazing within the band. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
FILE -In this Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 file photo, Robert Champion Sr., left, and his wife, Pam lead a procession into the funeral service for their son, Florida A&M University band member Robert Champion, in Decatur, Ga. The parents of a slain Florida A&M University drum major are concerned because the investigation into his hazing death three months ago in Orlando has not produced any arrests.  The attorney for Robert Champion Sr. and Pamela Champion says they’re worried because charges have been filed in two other FAMU band hazing cases that were less serious. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
A horse drawn carriage carrying the casket of Florida A&M University band member Robert Champion is lead by his fellow band members following his funeral service Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 in Decatur, Ga. The 26-year-old was found dead on Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla. hotel after the school's football team lost to a rival. Authorities suspect hazing but have not released any further details. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Members of the Florida A&M University band lead a horse drawn carriage carrying the casket of fellow band member Robert Champion following his funeral service Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 in Decatur, Ga. The 26-year-old was found dead on Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla. hotel after the school's football team lost to a rival. Authorities suspect hazing but have not released any further details. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
The Southwest DeKalb High School marching band, left, and Florida A&M University band lead a horse drawn carriage carrying the casket of Florida A&M University band member Robert Champion following his funeral service Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 in Decatur, Ga. The 26-year-old was found dead on Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla. hotel after the school's football team lost to a rival. Authorities suspect hazing but have not released any further details. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Members of the Florida A&M University band lead a horse drawn carriage carrying the casket of fellow band member Robert Champion following his funeral service Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 in Decatur, Ga. The 26-year-old was found dead on Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla. hotel after the school's football team lost to a rival. Authorities suspect hazing but have not released any further details. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A family member looks at the program before the start of a funeral service for Florida A&M University band member Robert Champion, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 in Decatur, Ga. The 26-year-old was found dead on Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla. hotel after the school's football team lost to a rival. Authorities suspect hazing but have not released any further details. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Funeral home representative Eric Davis carries the hat of Florida A&M University band member Robert Champion into his funeral service Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 in Decatur, Ga. The 26-year-old was found dead on Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla. hotel after the school's football team lost to a rival. Authorities suspect hazing but have not released any further details. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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Known as "Crossing Bus C," the ritual required band members to try to make it to the back of the bus with as many as three dozen fellow members doing everything to stop them. Succeeding through "the crossing" was a way to earn the respect and acceptance of fellow band members. Other parts of the ritual included "the hot seat," when band members stayed in bus seats with heads between their legs as other band members beat them, as well as "prepping," when a shirtless band member was slapped on the back and chest.

Champion collapsed after going through "the crossing" in November 2011 on a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel. He died a short time later. Two other band members passed through the bus ordeal before Champion, and survived.

Defense attorneys challenged the testimony of other band members who were on the bus, contending that prosecutors never proved any individual was responsible for Champion's death. Attorneys for Benjamin McNamee, Aaron Golson and Darryl Cearnel also said there was no conspiracy, as prosecutors claim. If convicted, the defendants each face 15 years in prison.

"They can't prove the crimes he is facing," said Michael Dicembre, McNamee's attorney.

Closing arguments were delayed after Ashton wanted to find out if jurors were influenced by the sight of two defendants praying outside the courtroom.

Almost all of the six jurors and two alternates said they saw Golson and McNamee praying, but they said it wouldn't influence them during deliberations.

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