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October 24, 2022

Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley pleads guilty to all counts with sentencing next year

As reported in this AP piece, a "teenager pleaded guilty Monday to terrorism and first-degree murder in a Michigan school shooting that killed four students and may be called to testify against his parents, who’ve been jailed on manslaughter charges for their alleged role in the tragedy."  Here is more with an emphasis on sentencing dynamics:

Ethan Crumbley, 16, pleaded guilty to all 24 charges, nearly a year after the attack at Oxford High School in southeastern Michigan.  In the gallery, some relatives of the victims wept as assistant prosecutor Marc Keast described the crimes.  “Yes,” Crumbley replied, looking down and nodding in affirmation, when asked if he “knowingly, willfully and deliberately” chose to shoot other students.

The prosecutor’s office said no deals were made ahead of Monday’s plea. A first-degree murder conviction typically brings an automatic life prison sentence in Michigan, but teenagers are entitled to a hearing where their lawyer can argue for a shorter term and an opportunity for parole.

“We are not aware of any other case, anywhere, in the country where a mass shooter has been convicted of terrorism on state charges,” Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said.

The teenager withdrew his intent to pursue an insanity defense, and repeatedly acknowledged under questioning by Judge Kwame Rowe that he understands the potential penalties.

His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, are jailed on charges of involuntary manslaughter, accused of making the gun accessible to their son and ignoring his need for mental health treatment. Ethan Crumbley’s lawyer, Paulette Michel Loftin, said it’s possible he could be called upon to testify against them   She said they’re under a no-contact order, and he has not spoken to his parents.  Parents have rarely been charged in school shootings, though the guns used commonly come from the home of a parent or close relative....

Sheriff Michael Bouchard told reporters Monday that Ethan Crumbley still had 18 rounds of ammunition when he was arrested. “It’s my belief he would have fired every one of those had he not been interrupted by deputies going immediately in,” said Bouchard who also called Ethan Crumbley “a twisted and evil person.” “I hope he gets life without parole,” the sheriff added. “He has permanently taken lives away from four lovely souls and he’s permanently affected many, many more.”

Prosecutors earlier this year disclosed that Ethan Crumbley had hallucinations about demons and was fascinated by guns and Nazi propaganda.  “Put simply, they created an environment in which their son’s violent tendencies flourished.  They were aware their son was troubled, and then they bought him a gun,” prosecutors said in a court filing....

In addition to the counts of first-degree murder and terrorism causing death, Ethan Crumbley admitted guilt to seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possessing a firearm in the commission of a felony.

The judge set Feb. 9 for the start of hearings to determine if he’ll be sentenced to life without parole or get a shorter sentence due to his age, and a chance at release. His lawyers will be able to argue a variety of mitigating circumstances, including family life and mental health.  Prosecutors didn’t signal in court if they will argue for a no-parole sentence.

October 24, 2022 at 03:40 PM | Permalink


Do we know why he decided to drop the insanity defense? Do people think he improved his odds at avoiding LWOP through that decision?

Posted by: Jason | Oct 24, 2022 9:52:14 PM

Jason --

Perhaps he dropped it because it was flimsy and he was afraid the court would take it as just a shake-and-jive to evade responsibility.

I do wonder about the propriety of an order for parents to have no contact with their minor child. That is not my area, but it must be very, very unusual.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 24, 2022 11:31:05 PM

Jason, I don't know enough about Michigan law to give a firm answer. I know in my state, an insanity defense can be the equivalent of a life with parole sentence. So maybe defense counsel thought that they would get a better result from an open plea. Additionally, in many states, the defendant has the burden of proof on an insanity defense and juries/judges tend to not buy those claims unless the evidence is very strong.

Bill, on the no-contact order, most bonds (at least in my state) include a no-contact with witnesses, victims, and codefendants. Many judges will make an exception for codefendants who are relatives, but not all. And I have never seen that litigated with the appellate courts.

Posted by: tmm | Oct 25, 2022 1:07:06 PM

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