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‘Sam’s Law,’ named after WSU student, would strengthen penalties for hazing-related deaths

Sam Martinez died of alcohol poisoning following 2019 fraternity party

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Sam Martinez was weeks into his freshman year at Washington State University when he died following a fraternity party in November 2019.

The coroner determined the 19-year-old’s death was caused by alcohol poisoning. Police blamed hazing, determining fraternity members encouraged Martinez to drink what turned out to be a fatal amount of alcohol.

Martinez’s parents, Jolayne Houtz and Hector Martinez, pleaded with state lawmakers Thursday to strengthen the state’s anti-hazing laws with two proposed laws.

"My goal today is simple and urgent: to try to save a life for the one that was taken from us two years ago,” said Houtz.

House Bill 1751 would require all university organizations, sports teams, clubs, not just fraternities, to publish past hazing incidents, alcohol or drug violations, or sexual crimes linked to the organizations, on publicly accessible websites.

House Bill 1758 “Sam’s Law,” would make hazing-related incidents gross misdemeanors, and those resulting in “serious bodily harm” would be charged as class C felonies.

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Following Martinez's death, prosecutors charged 15 fellow fraternity members with providing alcohol to minor misdemeanor charges. 

During an online public hearing Thursday morning, no one testified against HB 1751. HB 1758 has not been scheduled for a hearing.

Houtz said she is “cautiously optimistic” both bills will pass, and thinks both will save lives.

"Fraternities have proven again and again and again, that they are not up to the task of putting an end to hazing by themselves."

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