Parents of Oxford school shooter to stand trial, Michigan Court of Appeals rules

Posted at 10:39 AM, March 23, 2023 and last updated 4:59 PM, May 11, 2023

DETROIT (WXYZ) — The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that James and Jennifer Crumbley will stand trial in connection to the deadly Oxford High School shooting.

James and Jennifer, the parents of Ethan Crumbley, who pleaded guilty to the shooting at the school that killed four students and injured seven other people, are each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Parents of Ethan Crumbley in court

From left, Jennifer Crumbley, attorney Shannon Smith, attorney Mariell Lehman, and James Crumbley sit during a hearing in the courtroom of Judge Cheryl Matthews, Monday, June 27, 2022 at Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac Mich. (Jose Juarez/Detroit News via AP)

The charges stem from the deaths of Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Justin Shilling, 17, Tate Myre, 16 and Hana St. Juliana, 14. They were killed by Ethan during the shooting at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021. Seven other people, including a teacher, were also shot and injured.

In February 2022, a judge bound over James and Jennifer after a preliminary examination, saying there was enough evidence for them to stand trial. However, their lawyers appealed the ruling, and in November 2022, the Michigan Supreme Court issued a stay on the case and sent it back to the Court of Appeals.

In the opinion released on Thursday, the Michigan Court of Appeals noted that the district court didn’t abuse its discretion saying that the gunman’s decision to shoot his classmates was not a superseding cause because it “was foreseeable based on an objective standard of reasonableness.”

Judge Michael Riordan said in a supporting concurrence that this is a unique case.

“In the end, our decision today is consistent with principles of proximate causation and individual responsibility in criminal law. Our legal system does not, nor should it, criminally punish people for subpar, odd, or eccentric parenting, or require that children be deprived of any instrumentality that otherwise is legal to possess and use. Moreover, I suspect that parents do not reasonably assume, as a matter of course, that their children will commit violent crimes. However, before us is the unusual case. EC was extraordinarily troubled, yet defendants nonetheless provided him with a handgun and, despite having discrete, disturbing evidence that EC contemplated harming others, did nothing when confronted with that evidence,” stated Judge Riordan.

Ethan Crumbley answers yes to charges against him from assistant prosecutor during his pre-trial hearing at Oakland County Courthouse, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Pontiac, Mich. Crumbley entered the guilty plea to 24 criminal charges including terrorism causing death and first-degree murder for the Oxford High School shooting. (Clarence Tabb Jr./Detroit News via AP)

Defense lawyers argued that this case might set a precedent where parents could be charged for violent acts committed by their children, but the Court of Appeals argued those concerns are “significantly diminished by several well-established principles.”

“First, the principle that grossly negligent or intentional acts are generally superseding causes remains intact. We simply hold that with these unique facts, and in this procedural posture and applicable standard of review, this case falls outside the general rule regarding intentional acts because EC’s acts were reasonably foreseeable, and that is the ultimate test that must be applied. 13 Second, our decision is based solely on the record evidence, and the actions and inactions taken by defendants despite the uniquely troubling facts of which they were fully aware,” the opinion states in part.

In October 2022, Ethan Crumbley pleaded guilty to 24 charges, including one count of terrorism and four counts of first-degree murder, in the Oxford High School shooting.

This story was originally published March 23 by WXYZ in Detroit, an E.W. Scripps Company.