James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley, pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges on Saturday, Fox News reports, just hours after they were found in a warehouse where they were thought to be attempting to evade police.
Former U.S. attorney Neama Rahmani told Fox News that the case against the Crumbleys was justified and said they had a good chance of being convicted on the charges of buying a gun and leaving it readily accessible to their son even after they knew he was drawing violent pictures of shooting people.
Rahmani acknowledged that it is exceedingly rare to charge parents in such cases, but in Crumbley’s case, his actions and his parents’ knowledge of those actions constituted a significant risk, which they apparently ignored. The couple is being held on $500,000 bail each, the Associated Press noted.
“What’s more dangerous than buying a gun for your kid and knowing that, you know, he’s making, you know, drawing these violent pictures and school officials are concerned and doing nothing about it. In my book, that’s certainly creating a situation where the risk of death was very high,” Rahmani said.
Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald claimed that the gun used in the tragic shooting was stored in an unlocked drawer in the parents’ bedroom, but the Crumbleys’ attorneys denied that accusation.
Rahmani also said that the parents’ attempts to evade arrest could also be used in the case against them. The Crumbleys were arrested Saturday at a nearby warehouse after they failed to turn themselves in on Friday. They claim they were not running from the police, and had intended to turn themselves in.
“Whenever a criminal defendant flees, prosecutors can introduce that flight and argue to the jurors that that shows a guilty mind or consciousness of guilt. So it’s helpful evidence for the manslaughter charges as well,” she said.
But not all legal scholars agreed that the Crumbleys are headed for conviction on the charges.
Case will be tough
George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said there will be “ample challenges” to the case and explained that it may not be as easy to convict the Crumbleys as McDonald seems to believe.
“Absent some new evidence that the police were relying upon, as a general matter, parents are not criminally liable for the actions of their children in these types of cases,” Turley said.
“I mean, it’s not surprising to see the charges against the shooter. The evidence there is abundantly clear. But the charges against the parents would require a considerable level of detail as to their knowledge and actions leading up to this shooting,” Turley said.
However, it seems as though the police were able to find ample evidence that the Crumbleys should have known something was wrong with their son and could have been more proactive about dealing with it.