In Novel Ruling, Parents of School Shooter Must Face Trial

James and Jennifer Crumbley face involuntary manslaughter charges in Michigan
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 23, 2023 2:58 PM CDT
Parents of School Shooter Must Stand Trial, Too
This combination of booking photos shows James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of Ethan Crumbley.   (Oakland County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

In an unusual decision, a Michigan court has ruled that the parents of a school shooter must also stand trial over what they did—and didn't do—prior to the fatal attack. The state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that James and Jennifer Crumbley, parents of teen Ethan Crumbley, should face trial on involuntary manslaughter charges, reports the Detroit Free Press. Ethan Crumbley killed four students at Oxford High School in 2021, and the court found that the assault was "foreseeable." CNN sees the ruling as potentially "precedent-setting" in holding parents responsible.

“Our legal system does not, nor should it, criminally punish people for subpar, odd, or eccentric parenting," says the ruling. But "before us is the unusual case. EC was extraordinarily troubled, yet defendants nonetheless provided him with a handgun and, despite having discrete, disturbing evidence that EC contemplated harming others, did nothing when confronted with that evidence.” The court noted that the elder Crumbleys were summoned to school the very morning of the shooting after their son drew a disturbing image with a gun, but they chose not to take him home and get him help.

"Whether a jury actually finds that causation has been proven after a full trial, where the record will almost surely be more expansive—including evidence produced by defendants—is an issue separate from what we decide today," the court said in its 3-0 opinion, per the AP. (Ethan Crumbley, now 16, pleaded guilty and may be sentenced to life in prison.)

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