Champion died in November after enduring hazing by other band members outside a hotel in Orlando where FAMU had played its archrival in football. His death revealed a culture of hazing in the famed band, which has performed at Super Bowls and presidential inauguration parades. An autopsy concluded that Champion suffered blunt trauma blows to his body and died from shock caused by severe bleeding.
Champion's parents said at a news conference Wednesday that they are having a hard time believing that their son volunteered to be hazed.
"He was murdered on that bus, and no one signs up for that," Pam Champion said.
Prosecutors have more than 1,500 pages of evidence against the 13 people charged in Champion's death last year. Eleven defendants are charged with a third-degree felony, and two are charged with misdemeanors.
Drum major Keon Hollis told detectives that he went through the same hazing ritual as Champion the night he died. He said there were at least 15 people on the bus.
He said Champion was the next person to be hazed after him. He said Champion seemed fine immediately afterward, but said he was thirsty. Hollis said he gave Champion some water.
Champion soon collapsed and later died.
Another hazing ritual called "the hot seat" involved getting kicked and beaten with drumsticks and bass drum mallets while covered with a blanket on a band bus called "Bus C," band member Marc Baron told investigators. Baron isn't charged and wasn't on the bus the weekend Champion died.
Depositions offered clues to the defenses the defendants will use.
Boyce and another defendant, Shawn Turner, claimed they tried to help Champion get off the bus by pulling him through the gauntlet.
"So I grab him to try to keep everybody off him, and I grab him and I'm pulling him and I'm pulling him," Boyce told detectives. "People are kicking him so I stopped them from kicking him and I put my body around his body."
Defendant Aaron Golson denied getting on the bus where the hazing took place. He said he got a ride back from the game with a friend.
Golson also told detectives that Champion wasn't into the hazing rituals.
"Man, I'm shock[ed] if that happens," Golson said when told that Champion chose to get on the bus to be hazed.
Another defendant, Caleb Jackson, at first told detectives that he wasn't on the bus when Champion was beaten but then changed his story when he was told that hotel video surveillance showed him getting off the bus. At the time of Champion's death, Jackson was on probation for a felony battery charge.
"I love Robert like a brother, more than ya'll, any, everybody in this band loves this man like a brother, you know what I'm saying," Jackson said.
FAMU's famed Marching 100 band was suspended shortly after the incident, and officials have said it will remain sidelined at least through the 2012-2013 school year.