Levine and Levine Managing Partner Randall Levine and Criminal Defense Attorney Sarissa Montague spoke with media in the jury trial of Jennifer Crumbley, mother of Oxford school shooter Ethan Crumbley.
As testimony concluded on Friday, Feb. 2, in the case against Jennifer Crumbley, Montague explained to WEYI in Flint how the jury might proceed in the deciding whether or not Jennifer is guilty of involuntary manslaughter as the school shooter's mother in the deaths of four students in 2021.
Jennifer and her husband, James Crumbley, are the first parents to ever be charged in connection to a school shooting, making Jennifer the first parent convicted in such a case. Their son, Ethan Crumbley, pleaded guilty to 24 charges against him, including first-degree premeditated murder and terrorism causing death, in a mass shooting at Oxford High School in November 2021. He's been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for shooting, which killed four people and injured seven others He was 15 at the time.
In her interview with WEYI, Montague said that the jury will follow the instructions given by the judge and will look at all the evidence presented to them.
“It is absolutely impossible to predict when the jury could come back,” Montague told WEYI. “They could come back within an hour or two or they could come back in a week – you don’t know. Or it could be hung (jury), that could happen as well where they can’t reach a decision. That’s not going to happen after an hour, but it could happen after some days.”
Just like many lawyers across the country, they watched the Crumbley case closely as the outcome could set a standard in case law when it comes to how prosecutors can charge parents for the wrongdoing of their children.
A few days later, on Tuesday, Feb. 6, Jennifer Crumbley learned her fate from an Oakland County jury: guilty on four charges of involuntary manslaughter. One charge for each of the four students killed by her son, Ethan Crumbley.
Following the verdict, Managing Partner Randall Levine told FOX 17 he was “not surprised” by the jury's decision.
“The Oxford shooting was so horrific that the facts, in this particular case, I believe, gave the jury an avenue in which to convict — which they did,” Levine said in his interview with FOX 17. he said.
Jennifer Crumbley’s conviction now sets an interesting precedent about similar cases moving forward, according to Levine.
“Jennifer Crumbley didn't do an act. It's her failure to act, which is the gravamen of this offense,” he told FOX 17. “Not only must there be a failure to act but the jury must determine that that failure to act was the cause of the Oxford massacre. That's a leap, but the jury heard the evidence and that was their decision.”
Jennifer's sentencing is scheduled for April 9, but Levine expects there to be an appeal before that date.
“Causation is THE ISSUE likely to be addressed,” Levine said. “In other words to what extent did the actions of Ethan Crumbley supersede and break the causal link between Jennifer's failure to act and the deaths of those students?”
James Crumbley’s trial is set to start in March. However, Levine said Jennifer's conviction doesn't necessarily mean James's fate was also sealed but they did likely get a preview of the prosecution's argument.
Levine anticipates some overlap in the two cases, but each trial, of course, is different, and come March, James will start with a clean slate, he told FOX 17.
Levine and Montague held a joint interview with WWMT Channel 3 about the precedent Jennifer Crumbley’s case now sets for the U.S. legal system.
“It’s a stretch,” Levine told WWMT. “Normally in the criminal world, it requires a criminal act and a state of mind – mens rea. In this case, Jennifer Crumbley was tried and convicted on a government theory that it was her failure to act which caused the Oxford massacre.”
When asked if Jennifer Crumbley’s case opens the door for other parents to potentially be charged in connection to the actions of their children, Montague said: “It’s hard when you’re a criminal defense lawyer to wrap your head around the fact that you can get charged for something that you didn’t do as opposed to something you did do. Typically, it’s affirmative actions that are punished. In terms of how far this is going to go and if all parents need to be concerned, we all need to remember that these were all very, very unique circumstances.”
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