In a courtroom in Pennsylvania, horrible details came to light as a courtroom of observers watched the surveillance video from the Penn State hazing death of Timothy Piazza. While the tapes have not been made public, many sources cited in great detail the corpse-like appearance of the young man in some of the tapes. Even though it was quickly apparent that Piazza was in grave danger, members of the fraternity waited 40 minutes beyond seeing he was in need of help to call 911.
According to a court report of the hearing that occurred earlier this week:
“The video shows Piazza staggering through the house the night of February 2 before disappearing near basement stairs where police say he fell 15 steps and lost consciousness. The next few hours of video show him in and out of consciousness, rolling on the floor, struggling to stand and repeatedly falling and hitting his head before he disappears again the morning of February 3.
More than two hours later, the video shows several members carrying him to a couch. His eyes are closed and his legs and arms are visibly rigid, State College Police Det. Dave Scicchitano testified. His fist was clenched so tight that one of the students struggled to pry his fingers open.
“He looked dead. He looked like a corpse,” Scicchitano said.
Yet, instead of calling 911, they talked among themselves and searched their phones for information, Scicchitano said.
“They put him on a couch, put a blanket over him and stood around and talked for a while,” Scicchitano said. “That went on for an excruciating amount of time to watch without any action being taken.”
This tape alone could serve as a huge piece of evidence as both sides battle in court to see if there is enough to go forward with the pending charges. A total of 1000 charges against 18 of the fraternity brothers are currently pending. The charges range from a variety of alcohol-related crimes to manslaughter.
Prosecutors in Centre County are confident in what the video shows. They maintain that it is obvious that the 18 brothers ignored the situation and delayed medical care that could have saved the 19-year-old student. Even beyond the fact that they waited 40 minutes before calling emergency services at the end of the tape, the hours of footage show an overall lack of care as Piazza was injured over and over.
While the video was shocking and painful for many in the courtroom to endure, especially the Piazza family, there were larger issues with the decorum within the hearings. Out of the 18 students charged, only 16 appeared in court. Their defense teams seemed almost argumentative and inappropriate at times as they complained about the length of the hearings. They were in court for a total of 11 hours that day.
At one point one of the defense lawyers, Andy Shubin, called the hearings “cruel and unusual punishment” as a joke during a break. As other members of the defense team joined in, the attorney for the Piazza family described the scene:
“The lighthearted behavior continued after the hearing as the defendants and their families gathered, the Piazzas’ lawyer, Tom Kline said.
“Joking among themselves. Kidding among themselves. You would have thought today that it was a fraternity reunion. It did not go unnoticed by me, and more importantly, by the family.”
The family of Timothy Piazza made the following statement about the lighthearted feeling of the defense team in court:
“Of course, this comes right after all of them watching video for five hours of what real cruel and inhumane punishment was when the fraternity brothers essentially murdered our son, tortured him, held him captive and left him for dead over a 12-hour period of time. Thankfully the judge quickly brought them in order. We are highly offended by the insensitivity displayed given the severity of the crimes committed and ultimate outcome.”
Members of the defense team would like everyone to think this was merely a party that got out of hand. As the prosecution reminded everyone in court:
“This was no drinking party. This was an alcohol poisoning, followed by callous, reckless, inhumane behavior.”
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