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February 6, 2024

You be the sentencing judge: what sentence for Jennifer Crumbley after manslaughter convictions based on her son's mass school shooting?

I high-profile state homicide trial concluded this afternoon in Michigan with guilty verdicts from the jury for Jennifer Crumbley, mother of school shooter Ethan Crumbley.  This lengthy CNN article, headlined "Jennifer Crumbley, mother of school shooter, found guilty of manslaughter in test of who’s responsible for a mass shooting," provide a lot of details and context surrounding the trial.  But I am already eager to turn to the sentencing, and this local article provides these particulars:

The mother of the Oxford High School shooter could receive a prison sentence lasting anywhere from a few years to decades after being convicted Tuesday of four counts of involuntary manslaughter. After seven days of witness testimony and nearly two days of deliberations, jurors found Jennifer Crumbley guilty of involuntary manslaughter for her role in the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting that left four children dead and seven people injured. Both Crumbley and her husband were charged with four counts, and are standing trial separately.

By declaring the Oxford shooter’s mother guilty, jurors had to agree that the prosecution proved at least one of two theories: that involuntary manslaughter resulted from Crumbley’s failure to perform a legal duty, or that she committed involuntary manslaughter because she was grossly negligent. Jurors did not have to agree on which theory, so long as they all believed at least one was proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Oxford shooter’s mother is scheduled to be sentenced on April 9 in Oakland County. The actual sentence she’ll receive, however, is unknown. For an involuntary manslaughter conviction in Michigan, the punishment is up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $7,500.

Because Crumbley was convicted of four counts of involuntary manslaughter, it is possible she could be sentenced to a maximum of 60 years in prison if the judge decides to hand down the maximum sentence -- and if the judge decides to make those sentences consecutive. Some experts believe this sentence would be harsh under the circumstances....

Oakland County Judge Cheryl Matthews could decide to hand down the maximum sentence of 15 years for each count, but order them to run concurrently, so the max would still be 15 years.... The decision is ultimately up to the judge, and any guess as to a sentence would be solely speculative. In Michigan, the average sentencing for involuntary manslaughter is about 5-7 years per death, according to research done by Michigan defense law firm Barone.

So, dear readers, any early thoughts on a sound sentencing outcome in this notable case?

February 6, 2024 at 05:55 PM | Permalink

Comments

What her son did is beyond terrible. I haven't been following the details of the case, but he is definitely mentally ill and there is so little support to children and parents for that. The system does its best to incarcerate one when they finally committed a crime, but not much to prevent it. And what good will it do to put that woman in prison for 60 years? Wouldn't even five years be enough to give a message to a parent to keep guns away from a mentally disturbed kid? What about having sensible gun regulations in this country? I give up on this country.

Posted by: Estelle | Feb 6, 2024 10:17:14 PM

I see the Judge doing some mental compromising with the numbers, given the fact that her son killed 4 children. I am betting on four ten-year long sentences, to run concurrently, for a total of 10 years in prison. It would be interesting to know how much of that sentence she would have to serve under Michigan law before she can be considered for parole. If it is 25% time, then she would first be considered for parole after serving 2.5 years. Does anyone here know how the Michigan parole laws will apply to whatever the sentence is?

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Feb 6, 2024 10:51:36 PM

I am shocked by this part of the CNN article:

That morning, a teacher found a drawing from Ethan showing a gun and a person bleeding along with the phrases “the thoughts won’t stop help me,” “blood everywhere” and “my life is useless.”

The article goes on to mention that she didn't mention the purchase of the actual gun. That is shocking. She needs to serve time for it.

I would not be comfortable with an effective life sentence. I arbitrarily pick 10 years.

Posted by: William C Jockusch | Feb 6, 2024 11:07:15 PM

I honestly don't know.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 7, 2024 9:49:24 AM

https://reason.com/2024/02/06/moms-manslaughter-conviction-for-her-sons-school-shooting-sets-a-dangerous-precedent/

Not an endorsement of this article, but food for thought. What if he had stabbed four people to death? Could the parents be criminally liable on the theory that they allowed him access to the knives?

Posted by: federalist | Feb 7, 2024 10:29:15 AM

Trying to put judge hat on. A lot of judges like to give consecutive sentences when there are multiple victims as a way of showing that the defendant is being punished for each victim (i.e. no free offenses). I also think that there will be something of a sending a message about consequences for not keeping guns safely secured (which is a frequent issue in "accidental" shootings by young children and whether that conduct by the gunowner rises to the level of reckless). On the other hand, the defendant is only indirectly at fault, is apparently less responsible than her husband, and apparently has no prior criminal record (and probably will have lots of "good character" evidence at her sentencing hearing).

I would predict 3-4 years on each count with the counts to run consecutively.

Posted by: tmm | Feb 7, 2024 10:56:28 AM

Estelle,

He broke several “sensible gun regulations” in the commission of his crime.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Feb 7, 2024 11:30:20 AM

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