Hazing Death Ruled Homicide

South Carolina criminal lawyer discusses hazing deaths and criminal charges.  We have all heard of hazing rituals that are performed by fraternities and sororities as part of an initiation process for new or prospective members.  Sometimes, hazing rituals are focused on the younger people of a group instead of new people in a group.  19-year-old Michael Deng was a college freshman in the fall of 2013.  He did all the things college freshman do, including deciding to attempt membership to a fraternity.  Deng and all the other pledges to Pi Delta Psi were subject to various forms of hazing.  One of those rituals proved to be fatal for Deng and his death has recently been ruled a homicide.

This particular hazing ritual called for pledges to be blindfolded then they would each carry a 20-pound sack of sand for a specific distance while being tackled by fraternity members.  During the ritual, someone tackled Deng and caused him to fall over, hitting his head on the way to the ground.  At that point, Deng was allegedly carried inside the fraternity house because he had lost consciousness.  No one tried to call 911 or any other emergency help line.  Rather than calling for help, the fraternity members moved Deng by a fire, changed his clothes and researched his symptoms on the internet.  About an hour later, when Deng was still unresponsive, three of the fraternity members took him to the hospital.  When Deng arrived, he was in critical condition and needed to be put on life support.  Deng passed away about a day later on Monday from head injuries and blunt force trauma.  At this point, police are trying to figure out who was at the house at the time of Deng’s fall.  Following the incident, some members left the house before police could arrive to ask questions.  Police are still looking for those individuals.

This is definitely not the first time criminal charges have stemmed from a hazing death.  One older fraternity member was fatally hazed by younger members of his fraternity in 2011.  Allegedly, the student had been blindfolded and bound by the wrists and feet, then he was made to take numerous shots of vodka and eat very little.  He was left in the library to sober up after the ritual, but he never woke up.  His mother has filed a wrongful death suit naming the fraternity in her son’s death.

Hazing among fraternities and sororities has become pretty common.  One study revealed that 55% of students who join fraternities, sororities or sports teams experience some form of hazing.  Not surprisingly, it has also been estimated that nearly 80% of hazing deaths involve the consumption of alcohol.  To try to stop hazing, some colleges even put a stop to pledging to fraternities and sororities for a period of time to investigate hazing claims.  Further, some schools have adopted a zero-tolerance policy regarding hazing of any kind.  Wrongful death lawyers have even made careers out of representing people who wish to sue fraternities involved in hazing cases.

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