The parents of the teenager responsible for the Nov. 30, 2021 mass shooting at Oxford High School were granted a request to temporarily suspend their trial.
Ethan Crumbley pleaded guilty to the 24 charges filed against him, including first-degree murder and terrorism, in October of this year. He was 15 at the time and killed four students. Additionally, seven others were injured.
Crumbley carried out his attack using a gun allegedly purchased for him by his parents, James and Jennifer.
During his Oct. 24 court appearance, the now 16-year-old Crumbley told the judge and prosecutor that he asked his father to buy him a specific gun and received money from his father to buy the gun. He also confirmed the gun was not kept in a locked safe. Crumbley, who is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 9, is being prosecuted as an adult.
After the shooting, Mr. and Mrs. Crumbley were arrested and each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. They are the first parents in America to be charged in a mass school shooting.
“These charges are intended to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable and also send a message that gun owners have a responsibility. When they fail to uphold that responsibility, there are serious and criminal consequences,” said Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald at a press conference.
The parents pleaded not guilty. They and their legal representation have argued they are not responsible for the shooting and that the charges were “improperly approved,” per USA Today.
In July, the Crumbleys filed a motion with the Michigan Court of Appeals asking the court to throw out the case brought against them by the state. Their attorneys cited prosecutorial overreach.
“If the prosecution could directly link Mr. or Mrs. Crumbley to the mass shooting, they would be prosecuted for first-degree murder as if they had directly committed the offense,” read the motion, according to The Washington Post. “However, because the prosecution cannot support such a claim, they are left attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole.”
The defense team also argued the Crumbleys are being used to set an example.
“It begs the question of when a parent will cross the subjective line of ‘good parenting’ and render himself or herself criminally liable for the independent acts of a teenager,” the motion stated.
Just as Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Matthews had done one month earlier, the Appeals court denied the Crumbleys’s request.
The Michigan Supreme Court has now temporarily suspended the trial pending further consideration in the Court of Appeals.
“We remand this case to the Court of Appeals for consideration as … to whether there was sufficient evidence of causation to bind the (Crumbleys) over for trial on the charges of involuntary manslaughter,” wrote the justices in their order.”Trial court proceedings in the Oakland Circuit Court are stayed pending the completion of this appeal.”
Justice Richard Bernstein offered the lone dissenting vote, arguing the order “will unnecessarily delay the trial proceedings, which are set to begin in January.”
The Crumbleys and Oxford High School officials had been in contact following concerns about Ethan’s behavior.
After a teacher saw the teen researching ammunition on his phone the day before the shooting, the school notified his mother via voicemail of his “inappropriate” search. Jennifer reportedly texted her son, “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”
Ethan reportedly kept “a 22-page journal in which he detailed his plans to shoot up his school, and criticized his parents and school officials,” reports the Detroit Free Press. The defense contends there is no proof the parents were aware of the journal.
Prosecutors have argued that the parents failed to intervene when their child showed signs of mental distress.