This week’s topic (click HERE) focuses on the Ethan Crumbley case from the state of Michigan. Recall, he’s the 15-year old who killed four and injured six students and a teacher at a Michigan high school.
There’s alot about this case that is sad and interesting, but I’d like to focus on the recent news that a judge recently ruled that Ethan’s parents can stand trial for the death (involuntary manslaughter) of the 4 students killed by their son. Here’s my interest: Ethan Crumbley has been charged as an adult for the murders. Does this mean that the court has found that he could in fact make his own decisions? If so, then where does that leave his parents? The court has also charged them with at least contributing in the deaths (due to their lack of parental supervision, etc.). Of course there’s alot of “legal wrangling” going on here, but it does (I think) make for interesting conversation. Thoughts?
Whether or not the court decides to charge Ethan as an adult or child, I think there is a mental health aspect that is in play. There could be arguments that Ethan was not mentally stable and could plead insanity. I think this is also reason to make the parents involved. There was an element of neglect that was at play. Not only did the parents engage in child endangerment by leaving a gun in a place where Ethan had easy access to it, but they also denied his requests for help with his mental health. Ethan showed many signs of planning the shooting and his parents decided to ignore them, even when the school counselor got involved. I am not certain whether or not Ethan should be charged as a child or a minor, but I think the parents definitely need to be involved in the charges.
There is a lot that can be taken from this article. Whatever the court decides to try his as, he still should be held accountable, his parents as well. His parents showed great signed of neglect,they left a gun out in a place where Ethan had easy access and they also ignored his signed of poor mental health. I agree with the statement that the shooting could be stopped, if his parents paid attention to Ethan’s behavior along with the suggestion from the school, it all could have been stopped. I was shocked that Ethan’s dad started crying during the trial when they brought up Ethan’s journal because even though they didn’t know about it, he heard Ethan’s cry for help with his mental health and did nothing to help. I don’t know what to think about whether Ethan should be charged as a minor or adult or what to think about the potential insanity plea but I definitely think the parents should be charged in the process.
Even if Ethan could make his own decisions, that wouldn’t negate the possibility that his parent’s played a role in the massacre. (But that also doesn’t mean the involuntary manslaughter charges don’t carry enough weight for probable cause.) There were other ways the massacre could have been prevented. Perhaps, for one, the actions or inactions of Counselor Shawn Hopkins. His role as counselor and what he had knowledge of was comparable to the knowledge the parents had of their son’s unsteady mental health. The counselor was charged with the responsibility of recognizing a mental health crisis. If parent Jennifer Crumbly really told Counselor Shawn Hopkins that getting same-day mental health assistance wasn’t possible because they had to “go back to work,” Shawn Hopkins should have called 911. Hopkins noted the lack of “showing care”; therefore, he should not have relied on his parents to care for Ethan once he noticed this. If Ethan was a danger to himself or others, there is a law that the counselor could have just called 911 and gave them the information that Ethan was showing psychotic symptoms—the math drawings, watching videos of shootings—then to make them aware Ethan may have had suicidal ideation: it is quite backwards for a school counselor. There’s been many cases where parents had knowledge that their child was unstable, had access to guns, and was capable of violence—but they’ve never been charged with involuntary manslaughter. It may be related to jurisdiction, but I think the charge of involuntary manslaughter may be a stretch (despite their profound lack of proficient parenting). “Involuntary manslaughter” falls under the same penal code as “voluntary manslaughter” in Michigan Law (750.321 and 750.322) stating, “Involuntary manslaughter occurs when an individual kills another person without intent, or unintentionally.” While voluntary manslaughter leaves the element of “malice aforethought” out of the legal definition, “involuntary manslaughter” requires the inaction of “negligence” to truly exist. Did the parents commit a “criminally negligent homicide,” specifically without intent? I think it may be hard for prosecutors to get a jury to convict on all charges. A jury may see that sis parents, both Jennifer and James Crumbly, may have only had information about their son’s suicidal ideation—but nothing to indicate homicidal behavior. This would effectively invalidate Michigan law’s requirement for involuntary manslaughter. Detective Wagrowski, who was assigned to the case, when asked by Crumbly’s attorney if he had no evidence that the parents were told or were aware of a plan for their son to commit a school shooting—Detective Wagrowski conceded, “Correct.”
I think that even if the court decides to charge Ethan, his parents should still be accountable. For one, his parents didn’t listen to him about his mental health which is honestly one of the worst things you can do to a child. Yes he is 15 and is still a kid, but he noticed that something wasn’t right with him and he actually spoke up for it, when most kids would brush it off. for two, his parents left the guns safe open, plus his dad gave him the code to the guns safe. He is 15! He is still a child, who knows what could go through his head when he gets that from his father. The shooting could have not happened if his parents just listened to him and got him the help that he needed. The poor boy cried for help and no one listened. I could only imagine what was going through his head. His parents should definitely be involved in the trail because they could have helped their son but they chose not to.
Whether or not the court decides Ethan is accountable for his own decisions, the parents should still be charged for their behavior. They left their gun in an unlocked place where their fifteen year old had access to it. Even if their child did not use this access to commit a crime it could still be seen as a gun safety violation or even child endangerment. Further the parents were aware of their son’s struggle with mental health both through his own requests and through the school counselor. Despite this they did nothing to help the child which could also be argued as child endangerment as they did not seek out help for their child who clearly needed it and wanted it. Knowing this it is even more concerning that they kept the gun in an accessible place. Therefore the behavior of the parents could have qualified as criminal before Ethan even killed anybody. Now that he has though, those charges can be taken so much further as their child endangerment and lack of gun safety resulted in the death of others.