Jennifer Crumbley is found guilty in his son’s Michigan school massacre.
Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press via AP, Pool
The guilty verdict of the mother of the Michigan school shooter puts parents on notice. Jennifer Crumbley was found guilty for her son’s deadly 2021 rampage that left four students dead.”It’s certainly going to embolden prosecutors to bring more of these types of cases,” a legal expert said.
In an unprecedented verdict on Tuesday, Jennifer Crumbley was found guilty for her son’s 2021 rampage that left four of his Michigan classmates dead.
And the verdict should put parents on alert that they, too, could be held criminally responsible for the heinous acts of their children who have easy access to guns.
“It does put parents on notice and it’s certainly going to embolden prosecutors to bring more of these types of cases,” former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani told Business Insider.
Crumbley, along with her husband James Crumbley, were charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the November 30, 2021 massacre, making them the first parents in America to face charges for a mass school shooting carried out by their own child.
With Tuesday’s guilty verdict on all four counts of involuntary manslaughter, Jennifer Crumbley is now the first parent in the United States to ever be tried and convicted for their child committing a mass shooting.
She faces a maximum of up to 60 years behind bars. Her husband is set to stand trial for the same charges next month.
Though the verdict does not set legal precedent outside of the state of Michigan, Rahmani said that the verdict “definitely sends a message” since, typically, criminal responsibility falls on the person who committed the crime.
“Gun owners are a pretty cohesive group, and I’m sure they’re all talking about this case, and they’re going to be probably more careful if their kids show violent tendencies,” said Rahmani, president and co-founder of West Coast Trial Lawyers.
“In the back of their mind they have to be thinking well, hey, you know, if something happens maybe I can be held responsible too,” she said.
Prosecutors accused the Crumbleys of making a firearm — that they gifted to their son as an early Christmas present days before the shooting — too easily accessible to the now-17-year-old while simultaneously ignoring warning signs related to his mental health.
Prosecutors painted Jennifer Crumbley as an unaware and negligent mother who was consumed with an extramarital affair. They alleged she had several opportunities, including on the morning of the shooting, to try and prevent the deadly attack.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said in her closing argument that the “smallest” of measures taken by Jennifer Crumbley could have saved the lives of 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana, 16-year-old Tate Myre, and 17-year-olds Justin Shilling and Madisyn Baldwin.
Defense attorney and former Manhattan prosecutor Mark Bederow told Business Insider that the verdict could deter parents from buying their children guns, but could also have “dangerous” implications.
“To hold someone criminally responsible for the acts of another under a theory of negligence and it was foreseeable that they were going to do something that would result in killing people, it can be very dangerous,” Bederow said.
He added, “You hope that these kinds of cases are few and far between and only with the most egregious facts and most compelling evidence.”
Both Bederow and Rahmani agreed that it was not at all surprising that the Michigan jury returned a guilty verdict in Jennifer Crumbley’s case given the evidence, and noted that it does not bode well for her husband’s upcoming case.
“These facts were pretty egregious,” Rahmani said, “The facts were so bad that it did lend itself to this type of prosecution.”
Kris Brown, the president of Brady, a non-profit working to prevent gun violence, said that “irresponsible behavior” like that of Jennifer Crumbley “is why 76% of school shooters under the age of 18 get their firearms from home.”
“This verdict will not bring back the children killed or heal the wounds of those injured, but it does bring a shed of justice for the families who were so egregiously wronged,” said Brown.
Brown said the verdict “sends a powerful message to parents and other parties that they can be responsible for their actions that foreseeably contribute to gun violence even if they don’t pull the trigger.”
In 2022, the Oxford High School shooter pleaded guilty to all charges against him. He’s currently serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole.