Lead

May 11 17 4:44 AM

Tags : :

 The state-of-the-art surveillance cameras at Pennsylvania State University's Beta Theta Pi fraternity house that captured much of what happened to pledge Timothy Piazza before he died will "unquestionably ... become important evidence" in the cases against fraternity members charged in connection with Piazza's death, said ABC News Chief Legal Analyst Dan Abrams.Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore and pledge at Penn State's Beta Theta Pi fraternity, died on Feb. 4, after he fell down the stairs during a pledge ceremony at the house on the night of Feb. 2. Fraternity members did not call 911 until the morning of Feb. 3, about 12 hours after Piazza's fall, according to a report on the grand jury's investigation. Piazza's death "was the direct result of traumatic brain injuries," according to the forensic pathologist.The eight or nine full-color and full-broadcast-quality cameras at Beta Theta Pi showed that Piazza’s skin had turned gray by the morning of the 911 call, Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller told ABC News. The color change was especially noticeable in the final 40 minutes before the 911 call -- the time period prosecutors call the "cover-up" -- during which the students allegedly wanted to make Piazza appear healthier than he was by trying to dress him in clean clothes, Parks Miller said.image PHOTO: This Oct. 31, 2014 photo shows Timothy Piazza, center, with his parents Evelyn Piazza, left, and James Piazza, right, during Hunterdon Central Regional High School football's 'Senior Night' at the high school's stadium in Flemington, N.J. (Patrick Carns/AP Photo)Abrams said today on "Good Morning America," "The fact there were these surveillance cameras with these very well-defined pictures is unquestionably going to become important evidence in the context of this case. Because it may be able to show exactly what happened, who was where when, the sorts of things that you typically will need eyewitnesses or other evidence to say, 'Wait, I wasn't there,' 'I was there.' If a lot of this is on camera, those questions go away."Eighteen Penn State students are facing charges: eight for involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and hazing, among other charges; four for reckless endangerment and hazing, among other charges; and six for evidence tampering. The Beta Theta Pi fraternity -- which has since been barred from Penn State -- is facing charges including involuntary manslaughter and hazing.Abrams said, "It's really important that we look at these cases individually and not just sort of lump everyone in together.""It's going to be a prosecution against each one individually," Abrams said. "Each one of them, of course, will have their own attorney defending in their own way."When you're talking about involuntarily manslaughter," Abrams added, "which is the big charge against eight of them, you don't have to have shown someone tried to do it, or someone did it on purpose. The question is what was their conduct that led up to it, not what happened after the fact."Penn State frat's 'grotesque actions' were 'beyond human decency,' Piazza family attorney saysMore details emerge in horrific Penn State fraternity deathThe surveillance cameras at Beta Theta Pi documented much of the interactions between fraternity members and Piazza in the 12 hours between the fall and the 911 call. Here is how the night of Feb. 2 and early morning hours of Feb. 3 unfolded at the fraternity house, according to the grand jury report, which cited evidence including surveillance video, testimony and phone records.While the fall was not caught on video, video at 10:47 p.m. showed Piazza being carried upstairs by four fraternity brothers; in the video, his body appeared limp, his eyes were closed, he appeared unconscious, and a bruise was visible on his side. Piazza was placed on a couch, and liquid was dumped on his face twice, but he didn't respond either time.About a half an hour after the fall, at 11:14 p.m., a newly initiated member saw Piazza lying on the couch, looking "horrible," he later told the grand jury. He saw Piazza "thrashing and making weird movements on the couch" and screamed at the fraternity brothers for help, stressing that Piazza needed to go to the hospital because he could have a concussion. One brother shoved the newly initiated member into a wall and said they had it under control.