Grand Jury: Penn State Fraternity Hazing Can't Be Linked to Suicide

January 6, 2016

A grand jury in Pennsylvania said Tuesday that no criminal charges should be brought against members of a Pennsylvania State University fraternity in the suicide of a former member.

According to a lawsuit filed last month by the student's family against the university and the fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa, the student was forced to consume "gross amounts" of alcohol and mouthwash, as well as made to swallow live goldfish, fight other pledges and stay awake for 89 hours. The student, Marquise Braham, committed suicide during spring break in 2014, a day before he was meant to return to the fraternity at Penn State's Altoona campus. The chapter was suspended for six years by the university following Braham's death.

The grand jury stated in its report that it found evidence that such hazing did occur -- including locking pledges in closets, excessive drinking, sleep deprivation and forced fighting -- but it was unable to link the behavior to the student's suicide. The jury referred to a suicide note in which the student stated he saw his suicide "coming since [he] was a child." The grand jury also noted that fraternity members refused to name specific members who were responsible for the hazing, making it difficult to sustain any criminal prosecutions. "While there is no question that hazing occurred during the pledging for the fraternity during both the fall 2013 semester and continued for a new pledge class up until Braham's death in March 2014, that hazing was a fraternitywide problem and not limited to just a few individuals," the report reads.

A spokesman for the student's family criticized the grand jury's decision Tuesday, saying in a statement that the members of the jury were "not given access to mental health experts and friends and family of Marquise, who know the truth about the cause of his psychological crises and its direct link to the brutal hazing."

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