DETROIT — In a ground-breaking case of parental criminal culpability for a child’s actions, the state appeals court declared Thursday that the parents of a teenager who killed four pupils at a Michigan high school could be tried for involuntary manslaughter.
According to the appeals court, the murders would not have occurred if Ethan Crumbley’s parents had not bought him a gun or brought him home from Oxford High School the day before the shooting after school officials became concerned about his egregious drawings.
The court emphasized that the legal bar is relatively low under Michigan law at this point in the case.
“Whether a jury 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 a 3-0 opinion.
Before the shootings, James and Jennifer Crumbley are charged with failing to safeguard a gun and ignoring their son’s mental health needs. In addition to the four kids who died, seven others were hurt.
Crumbley, 16, has admitted to terrorism and murder and faces a life sentence without the possibility of release. He was 15 years old when the shooting occurred in November 2021.
Parents’ attorneys maintain that it was unforeseeable what would occur that day. They admit that poor choices were made, but they were not ones that called for involuntary manslaughter charges.
According to Judge Michael Riordan, parents shouldn’t be brought before the court for providing “subpar, weird, or quirky” child care. Yet, he said, the evidence against the Crumbleys is even more severe.
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“The morning of the shooting, EC drew a picture of a body that appeared to have two bullet holes in the torso, apparently with blood streaming out of them, which was near another drawing of a handgun that resembled the gun his parents … had very recently gifted to him,” Riordan said.
According to the judge, it was “visual evidence” that Ethan was considering inflicting gunshot wounds on someone.
When a meeting regarding the artwork was called to order at the school, Ethan wasn’t taken home by the Crumbleys.
Invoking a gag order, the parents’ attorneys declined to comment on Thursday. Since the Michigan Supreme Court has mandated that the appeals court consider the case, they will probably ask the court to revisit the matter.
Patricia Gault is a seasoned journalist with years of experience in the industry. She has a passion for uncovering the truth and bringing important stories to light. Patricia has a sharp eye for detail and a talent for making complex issues accessible to a broad audience. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated a commitment to accuracy and impartiality, earning a reputation as a reliable and trusted source of news.