The case is the first test of a new state hazing law, but this is the Kappa Alpha Psi members' second trial after an initial jury deadlocked in October. Four were charged in connection with initiation rites while the fifth allegedly encouraged the supposed victim to bear up and then revived him when he passed out from the pain.
"They beat Marcus Jones with canes so severely he needed surgery to remove a hematoma about the size of a can of Coca Cola from his buttocks," Assistant State Attorney Frank Allman said in his closing argument before jurors started deliberating in the afternoon.
Jones, 20, of Decatur, Ga., sat on a small pillow Thursday while testifying he still feels pain from the beating more than nine months ago if he sits for long periods. He also suffered a broken ear drum from being slapped, but that injury has healed.
Defense lawyers cited their expert witness who testified the buttocks injury was not serious and that surgery was unnecessary because the bruising could have been treated with ice packs. A prosecution expert, though, said Jones' loss of self-esteem contributed to his opinion that his injury was serious.
The extent of his injury was a key issue because the new law makes it a third-degree felony, with penalties ranging from probation to five years in prison, to cause "serious bodily injury" through hazing.
There's no definition of that term in the law. Before deadlocking, the first jury indicated through a note to Circuit Judge Kathleen Dekker that it was having trouble deciding what the law meant.
At the first trial, Dekker simply instructed the jurors that serious meant more than slight or moderate. This time she told the jury that it means "dangerous, grave, grievous or great as distinguished from slight." She said it also may, but not necessarily, include serious permanent disfigurement or a protracted loss or impairment of a function of a bodily member or organ.
One of the defendants accused of striking Jones is a former chapter president, Michael Morton, 23, of Fort Lauderdale. The others are Brian Bowman, 23, of Oakland, Calif.; Cory Gray, 23, of Montgomery, Ala.; and Marcus Hughes, 21, of Fort Lauderdale. Jason Harris, 23, of Jacksonville, was accused of facilitating the alleged hazing.
Defense lawyer Chuck Hobbs attacked the credibility of testimony by Jones, his father, Army Master Sgt. Mark Jones Jr., and his mother, Carolyn Jones, in his closing argument. Hobbs cited conflicts between their testimony and other witnesses. He said they could not be believed because they were motivated by revenge and wanted to see convictions to help win a possible lawsuit against the defendants.
No suit has been filed but the family has retained a law firm. Mark Jones, who joined the same fraternity when he was in college, said the firm was hired to help with media relations.
Hobbs recalled that Jones testified he was in a "war."
"We cannot allow the blind anger that has enraged Sgt. Mark Jones to hurt or harm these young men," Hobbs said. "He is in a personal war against the fraternity."