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November 15, 2022

Local prosecutor seeking LWOP sentence for Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley

As reported in this local article, "Oakland County prosecutors plan to seek a life sentence without the chance of parole for the teenage boy who killed four classmates and injured a teacher and six other students at Oxford High School last year."  Here is more:

Ethan Crumbley, 16, pleaded guilty Oct. 24 to terrorism causing death, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of attempted murder and 12 counts of felony firearm. Crumbley killed Oxford students Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana and Justin Shilling.

The Oakland County Prosecutor's Office filed a motion Monday notifying the court that it planned to seek a life without parole sentence. "As we previously stated, there have been no plea bargains, no charge reductions, and no sentence agreements," David Williams, Oakland County's chief assistant prosecutor, said Tuesday in a statement. "The shooter has been offered and promised nothing. The motion filed yesterday is a formal declaration of our intent to seek the maximum possible sentence in this case."

Paulette Michel Loftin, Crumbley’s lawyer, said in October before Crumbley entered his plea that he was remorseful and wanted to accept accountability and do the right thing. Pleading guilty was his idea, she said. Crumbley was 15 years old at the time of the shooting on Nov. 30, 2021....

A first-degree murder conviction usually comes with an automatic life without parole sentence, but teenagers are entitled to a hearing where their attorneys can argue for a lighter sentence and present mitigating testimony and evidence about their client's life.  Prosecutors can also put on a case for why their requested sentence is warranted. This hearing is held because of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles are unconstitutional. The sentencing process is scheduled to start in February.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald has said that "every person who was in Oxford High School that day will have a chance, if they want to, to speak in their own words about how this has affected them."

Ethan's parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, are charged with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors accused them of "gross negligence" leading up to the murders. They face up to 15 years in prison.

As detialed in this post, just a few months ago the Michigan Supreme Court issued a series of rulings addressing, and generally restricting, when and how juveniles convicted of homicide can receive sentences of life with or without parole.  I would expect that a mass shooting at a school would still be a prime case for a discretionary LWOP sentencing, but Crumbley’s relatively young age and his apparent remorsefulness could open up the possibility of a lesser sentence.

Prior related post:

November 15, 2022 at 05:12 PM | Permalink


If he ever gets out, I sure as heck wouldn't want him to live anywhere near me. Therefore, LWOP seems like the most lenient sentence that could make sense. Obviously, the DP would fit this crime better, but the Supreme Court won't allow it.

Posted by: William C Jockusch | Nov 15, 2022 5:45:16 PM

No child should be tried as an adult, let alone sentenced to life in prison.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 15, 2022 11:38:06 PM


I agree with you about no child deserving a life sentence. However, I suspect we greatly disagree about what constitutes a "child". To me, a 16 year old does not qualify.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Nov 16, 2022 1:58:33 PM

A 16 year old most definitely qualifies as a child. It's most certainly not an adult.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 16, 2022 9:30:35 PM

"..a 16 year old does not qualify (as a 'child')"

However, in many jurisdictions being under 18 qualifies them as 'children' should they voluntray choose to engage in sexual acts with those over the age of 18. Nor are 16 year olds allowed to vote in elections. Nor can they consume alcohol or cannabis legally. Because they are "children". So if it involves pleasure or voting, they are children. After all, their brains are not fully formed, etc. and they'll make bad decisions. Of course, when it involves "punishments", they most certainly are adults and well deserving of the DP. I'm sure the tortured logic of the "tough on crime mob" will straighten me out on all this.

Posted by: SG | Nov 16, 2022 9:34:40 PM

As neurologists are learning more about the youthful brain, they have determined that brains are not completely formed and mature until about 25 or 26 years old. The law has been slow to catch up with our knowledge about neuroscience. In 2016, Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone (now retired) attempted to move the ball in this area by holding in 2 cases that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005) (those younger than 18 at the time they committed their crimes cannot be sentence to death) should be extended to age 21, based on advances in neuroscience and the psych evaluations of the young defendants. One young killer (in cold blood during an armed robbery netting $675), Travis Bredhold, was 18 years and 5 months at the time he killed his victim. His psych report indicated that his brain and thinking operated only at the level of a 14 year old. He and his twin brother had been raised in Kentucky's foster care system. He had been expelled from public high school in Lexington, and had finally graduated from the alternative high school (for those expelled from the 6 local high schools) just 5 months before killing his victim, who was trying to give him the money. Bredhold was identified to the police by his former foster parents. He was taken down and arrested in a large local shopping Mall, with the robbery money in his pockets to buy Christmas presents. The police took him to the ground so fast that he never got to touch the .380 automatic in his jacket pocket. The prosecutors delayed trials for the long-incarcerated defendants and appealed Judge Scorsone's rulings to the Kentucky Supreme Court, which dodged the questions raised by finding that none of the 3 defendants had standing to raise the issue, since they had not yet been convicted or sentenced to death -- there was no actual controversy before the appellate court. See, the consolidated appeals in "Commonwealth v. Bredhold" and "Commonwealth v. Diaz and Smith", Case Nos. 2017-SC-536-TG and 2017-SC-537-TG (Ky. March 26, 2020). The cases were remanded to Circuit Court for trials. On April 21, 2021, the prosecutors dropped the death penalty demands from these cases, which led to three guilty pleas and very long sentences. The local press completely missed covering Bredhold's guilty plea and sentencing, in October and November of 2020, since they occurred over ZOOM hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, Bredhold was the longest serving inmate (as a pretrial detainee) in the Fayette County Detention Center. He was arrested in December 2013 and was not sentenced until November 2020 -- 7 years, from age 18 until age 25! Ironically, Bredhold's guilty plea and sentencing were delayed because he contracted COVID-19 in the jail! And yet the bold efforts Judge Scorsone made to recognize the new developments in neuroscience have failed to achieve an appellate thumbs up or thumbs down. What he set in Motion did not make i to eh U.S. Supreme Court, as some had anticipated, because the Kentucky Supreme Court refused to rule on the merits of Judge Scorsone's arguments before a verdict had been obtained and a sentence imposed.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Nov 16, 2022 11:42:36 PM

Travis Bredhold was sentenced to 30 years for 1st degree murder, 10 years for 1st degree robbery and 1 year for theft by unlawful taking, with the 3 sentences to be run concurrently. He will have to serve 85% of 30 years before he can be considered for parole.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Nov 16, 2022 11:47:52 PM

The question is not whether his brain was fully developed. The question is whether it was developed enough to know that multiple murder is morally wrong, and the answer is yes, as we all know. He earned his fate, unlike his classmates (of the same age) who didn't.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 17, 2022 10:44:06 AM

Just so. If you don't want a permanent sentence, try confining yourselves to crimes that aren't permanent for the victims.

Posted by: William C Jockusch | Nov 17, 2022 6:14:39 PM

Hi Bill - I would probably agree with LWOP in this case (even with good behavior, there would probably be too much community opposition for parole to be a realistic possibility) but I am just curious as to one idea I have. If we must lock up Ethan Crumbley for life, his confinement should be as painless as possible for him and the prison staff. I would therefore propose that the prison staff allow him to play video games so as to keep him occupied and therefore refrain from harming prison staff. I know this is probably not going to happen but I would do it if it showed to encourage appropriate behavior. Your thoughts? Brett Miler

Posted by: Brett Miler | Nov 18, 2022 9:06:59 AM

Brett Miller --

You ask a legitimate question but it's outside my expertise, so out of modesty I must demur.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 19, 2022 11:12:58 PM


You are absolutely on the right track. The concept to keep in mind in all cases is that those convicted of crimes go to prison AS PUNISHMENT, not FOR punishement.

The loss of one's freedom for the remainder of one's life is the most severe punishment (other than the DP) that our society has conceived. Unprovoked and uncalled for'harsh treatments' while incarcerated (such as being put into 'the hole', or loss of certain privileges such as exercise, access to the outdoors, inadequate or denial of medical treatment, substandard food, limited visitation with family, poor or unhealthy living conditions, etc.) says far more about those who endorse or impose such conditions than it says about the wrongdoer. All of this is predicated on Crumbley not presenting as a behavioral problem.

As far as Crumbley being allowed to play video games, I see this as unlikely. Other inmates would demand similar privileges, which I see as being impractical. But I may be wrong.

Posted by: SG | Nov 20, 2022 6:09:19 AM

SG -
Thank you for complimenting my comments. I know Crumbley playing video games is unlikely, but if we must lock up Crumbley for his natural life, it seems to me that it is best if we make his confinement as painless as possible. Making prison harsher for him doesn't bring his victims back, and if making prison easier makes the inmates more compliant and less likely to react violently, then prison should be made easier. Brett Miler

Posted by: Brett Miler | Nov 20, 2022 2:20:15 PM

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