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Thoughts on the Jennifer Crumbley conviction

by | Feb 6, 2024 | Firm News |

The Oxford school mass shooting was horrific.  It was the sort of horrible crime that called out for justice.  And so, Prosecutor Karen McDonald prosecuted Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of the shooter, on a theory of involuntary manslaughter.  McDonald made two arguments to the jury:  that Mrs. Crumbley failed to prevent the killings and she could have done so, and that she was grossly negligent in making the gun and ammunition readily available to her son, Ethan when she knew he was quite disturbed.  We don’t know under which theory the jury convicted her.

Crumbley had texted her boyfriend that she could have stopped Ethan from going to school and thereby prevented the shooting.  While this sort of after-the-fact grief-stricken statement could be an understandable assumption of responsibility, the jury likely found that it was an admission of guilt.

The jury was quite familiar with gun ownership. So it would be unreasonable to portray this case as an infringement on Second Amendment rights or an attack on the culture prevailing in much of rural America in which parents give access to firearms to teenagers. Nor do I expect this case to open the door to a series of Nanny state prosecutions.

This crime was historically awful in its statewide impact.  Prosecutors at the state level are elected in our country, and I do not believe the public expects its prosecutors to condemn understandable parenting mistakes.  But some acts of negligence are so extreme that they cry out for prosecution. We already prosecute parents who let their children overheat to death in cars.  It makes sense that parents who let their very disturbed children have access to firearms and then kill people get prosecuted as well.

Jennifer Crumbley is the first parent in the United States to go on trial in a mass school shooting carried out by their child.

CBS New Detroit update, February 6, 2024, by Sara Powers, “Jury finds Jennifer Crumbley guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter”.