A new approach to pursuing justice in mass shootings is likely to be considered by prosecutors nationwide, as seen by the guilty conviction on Tuesday against the mother of a Michigan teenager who killed four classmates in the state's bloodiest school shooting in 2021, The New York Times reports. However, legal experts say, don’t expect a rush of similar cases. That’s because prosecutors in Michigan had notably compelling evidence against the mother, Jennifer Crumbley — including text messages and the accounts of a meeting with school officials just hours before the shooting at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021 — that jurors felt proved she should have known the mental state of her son, Ethan Crumbley, who was 15 at the time. Ethan pleaded guilty in 2022 and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Ms. Crumbley was convicted on four counts of involuntary manslaughter, one for each student her son killed. She faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, and sentencing is scheduled for April 9. Ms. Crumbley’s husband, James Crumbley, 47, will be tried separately in March.
Eve Brensike Primus, a law professor at the University of Michigan and other legal experts who have followed the case say the successful prosecution of Ms. Crumbley, 45, provides a template for prosecutors around the country to pursue similar cases. In the aftermath of mass shootings by teenagers and young adults, scrutiny often falls on the parents, as much to weigh the specific circumstances of the crime as to learn something that could prevent that next shooting somewhere in America. Experts anticipate that prosecutors around the country will consider similar charges in mass shootings. But some said they also worried that the tactic could be applied to many other circumstances, and in the process deepen racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Legal experts also say they worry the case will become a way for prosecutors to force plea deals from parents, far from the national spotlight that the Crumbley case had. “Having this tool as a way of threatening or warning or coercing or pushing parents to accept plea bargains — like so much of the criminal law, I’m afraid that it’s going to consume lives quite out of sight,” said Ekow Yankah, a law professor at the University of Michigan.