Michigan mother found responsible for son's actions in high school mass shooting: how we got here and what's next

Michigan mother found responsible for son's actions in high school mass shooting: how we got here and what's next

In a groundbreaking verdict, Michigan jurors found Jennifer Crumbley responsible for her teenage son’s actions when he opened fire at his high school in 2021, killing four students. Jennifer Crumbley was found guilty on all four counts of involuntary manslaughter, one for each student who was killed by her son, Ethan Crumbley, at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021.

She is the first parent in the U.S. to be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in connection to a mass shooting committed by their child. Prosecutors accused Jennifer and her husband, James Crumbley, of making the gun accessible to their son, ignoring his mental health needs and declining to take him home from school after his violent drawings were discovered on the day of the attack.

Gun control advocates praised the jury’s decision. “Today’s verdict underscores the important responsibility of parents and gun owners in preventing children from having unsupervised access to deadly weapons,” Nick Suplina, senior vice president for law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement. “This decision is an important step forward in ensuring accountability and, hopefully, preventing future tragedies.”

Ethan, who was 15 years old at the time of the shooting, was charged as an adult and pleaded guilty to murder, terrorism and other crimes in the killing of students Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana, Madisyn Baldwin, and Justin Shilling.

Ethan was sentenced to life in prison without parole last December. He did not testify in his mother’s trial.

Jennifer’s husband, James Crumbley, is also charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter and will be tried separately. He has pleaded not guilty to the four charges.

Why are these trials so significant?
The separate trials of Jennifer and James Crumbley test the limits of who is responsible for a mass shooting. In this case, a jury found that Jennifer Crumbley was responsible.

While parents have previously faced criminal penalties following shootings carried out by their children, charges in those cases usually relate to child neglect or as a failure to keep a firearm locked up. For example, a Virginia mother was sentenced to two years in prison on a state charge of felony child neglect after her 6-year-old son shot his teacher.

But the Crumbley’s cases are different because the prosecution is holding both parents responsible for the killings of the four victims, claiming “gross negligence” for the actions they did not take to prevent their son from carrying out the mass shooting.

“That’s why this is a tricky case because a lot of it is based on omission, not action,” trial attorney Misty Marris told CNN. “A lot of criminal culpability is because you did something, not because you failed to do something. That’s why this legal argument is so novel and new and actually pretty groundbreaking.”