JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Supreme Court upheld the conviction of the Southeast Missouri State University student who was found guilty last year of hazing a fraternity pledge to death.
Keith Allen was convicted last year on five counts of hazing in connection to the death of Michael Davis, a pledge at the Southeast Missouri State chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi. Davis died of a subdural hematoma to the brain after a severe beating, which Allen and other fraternity members instigated.
As a result, Allen was charged under the Missouri law that classified hazing as a Class A Misdemeanor. Tuesday, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld his conviction, ruling the anti-hazing law constitutional.
"I think the Supreme Court has affirmed that hazing is more than reckless and stupid, it's a crime," said Morley Swingle, Cape Girardeau's prosecuting attorney.
Davis's unnecessary death prompted the Missouri General Assembly to pass a law increasing the penalties of hazing, making it a felony crime.
Allen, who was sentenced to 1 1/2 years in jail, could have faced between one and seven years in prison if he would have been tried under the new law.
Allen appealed his conviction on grounds that the Missouri law was unconstitutionally vague, and that its reference to "beating" was an ambiguous term. The Missouri Supreme Court found otherwise.
The Court also ruled against Allen's arguments that the anti-hazing law violates the First Amendment right to assemble.
"There is no constitutional right in members of an organization recklessly to endanger the mental or physical health or safety of members or potential members of that organization by physically beating them," Justice Edward Robertson wrote in the ruling.
Allen's attorney was unavailable for comment.