sábado, junio 15

Jennifer Crumbley, mother of Michigan school shooter, guilty of manslaughter

Michigan jurors, after 11 hours of deliberations, on Tuesday found Jennifer Crumbley guilty of involuntary manslaughter for her teenage son’s gun rampage in the state’s deadliest school shooting more than two years ago.

The trial has become a lightning rod for issues of parental responsibility, at a time of frequent cases of gun violence committed by minors. It is the highest-profile example of prosecutors seeking to hold parents accountable for violent crimes committed by their children.

Ms Crumbley, 45, was found guilty of four counts of manslaughter, one for each of the four students fatally shot by her son at Oxford High School on November 30, 2021. The son, Ethan Crumbley, aged 15. at the time, he used a gun to kill 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin; Tate Myre, 16; Justin Shilling, 17; and Hana St. Juliana, 14. Seven other people were injured. The gun was a gift from his parents.

«We all know this is one of the hardest things you’ve ever done,» Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Matthews told jurors at the courthouse in Pontiac, B.C. Michigan, immediately after the verdict was read.

Ms Crumbley stood virtually still, looking down, until she was handcuffed and led from the court. She has been held in the Oakland County Jail since December.

Ms Crumbley faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison after being found guilty of all four charges. Sentencing is scheduled for April 9.

Ethan, who pleaded guilty to 24 counts including first-degree murder, was sentenced last year to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He did not testify at his mother’s trial.

Ms Crumbley’s husband, James Crumbley, 47, will be tried separately in March.

In recent months, parents whose children committed gun violence in other states have pleaded guilty to charges of reckless driving or negligence, part of efforts by some prosecutors to hold parents accountable when they are suspected of having allowed murderous violence on the part of their children.

The charges against Ms. Crumbley were more serious, making her trial an important test for prosecutors.

The decision to charge the parents with manslaughter was something of a knee-jerk judgment, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen D. McDonald said in an interview shortly after the charges were filed, adding that it even had aroused reluctance on the part of certain members of its staff.

But she stressed in her closing argument on Friday that the seriousness of the charges reflected the depth of Ms Crumbley’s negligence and the horrific crime that resulted.

She said Ms Crumbley was guilty of «failing to exercise ordinary caution when the smallest, tragically simple thing could have prevented» a catastrophe.

Still, Tuesday’s guilty verdict could have ramifications in other trials, according to Ekow N. Yankah, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School.

“We pay attention to the spectacular cases,” he said, “and we don’t pay attention to the extent to which they change the law in the non-spectacular cases — to the number of plea bargains, to the number of people who will spend more time in prison because they won’t. I want to risk a guilty verdict like this.

Ms Crumbley’s defense lawyer, Shannon Smith, argued during the trial that parenting can be a complicated and unpredictable task and that no mother can be perfect. “This case is very dangerous for parents,” she said Friday during her closing arguments.

Mr. Yankah said that after this verdict, «I think there will be a lot of parents who will think: if I have a child who is struggling and I’m doing my best, at what point is his behavior not ? my responsibility is no longer his?

In the Pontiac, Mich., courtroom, jurors spent seven days listening to heartbreaking testimony from nearly two dozen witnesses, including Ms. Crumbley, who testified in her own defense for about three hours last week.

Prosecutors argued that Ms. Crumbley should have noticed her son’s distress and stopped him from committing an unspeakable act of violence. Marc Keast, one of the prosecutors, said she and her husband «failed to do a number of tragically small and easy things that would have stopped all of this from happening.»

For the defense, Ms. Smith portrayed Ms. Crumbley as a “hypervigilant mother,” attentive to her son’s needs and who could not predict what was going to happen.

“I ask you to find Jennifer Crumbley not guilty,” Ms Smith told the jury on Friday. “Not just for Jennifer Crumbley, but for all the mothers who are doing their best and could easily be in her shoes.”

During the trial, prosecutors focused in part on Ethan’s access to a gun. But jurors also had to consider a more abstract question: Whether one witness’s testimony — accompanied by a vast collection of text messages — could provide a reliable window into a teenager’s state of mind in difficulty or on the relationship of a mother with her son.

Jurors saw messages Ethan sent to a friend in April 2021, complaining of insomnia, paranoia and hearing voices. Jurors also saw messages he sent to his mother in March 2021, in which he suggested their house was haunted by a demon. Ms. Crumbley, prosecutors pointed out, did not always respond.

But in her testimony, Ms Crumbley said Ethan and his parents joked for years about whether their house was haunted, adding that her son was just «messing around».

Prosecutors also shared messages exchanged between Ms. Crumbley and her husband, his co-workers and friends, which they said suggested that Ms. Crumbley had paid more attention to her two horses and her extramarital affair than to the needs of her son.

Ms. Crumbley testified that she did not consider her son to be a danger to others. “As a parent, you spend your whole life trying to protect your child from other dangers,” she said. «You never thought you would have to protect your child from someone else’s harm.»

As Ms. Crumbley accompanied Ethan to a shooting range days before the rampage, she testified Thursday that her husband, who purchased the gun used in the shooting, was more familiar with firearms and was responsible for storage of the Sig Sauer pistol. .

Ms. Crumbley also described a meeting with school officials that took place about two hours before the attack. She and her husband had been called to the school after Ethan wrote disturbing things on a math worksheet, including the phrase «blood everywhere.»

Ms Crumbley said that after a counselor raised concerns with her about Ethan’s mental health, they decided together that her son could stay at school rather than go home alone. They did not search his backpack, which contained the gun he would soon use against his classmates.

On Thursday, a detective guided jurors through the pages of Ethan’s diary, found at the school after the shooting. The teen had written about a plan to cause bloodshed, adding drawings of guns and pleas for help regarding his mental health.

“My parents won’t listen to me about getting help or a therapist,” Ethan wrote. But Ms Crumbley said she never saw the diary entries, nor heard her son ask for a therapist.

Prosecutors had also suggested the Crumbleys tried to flee authorities by leaving their Oxford home shortly after the shooting. The couple was arrested in Detroit on December 4, 2021. Ms. Smith, the defense attorney, argued that they feared for their safety in the face of continued threats, and Ms. Crumbley testified that she had planned to surrender .

Campbell Robertson reports contributed.