Appeals court hears case against parents of Oxford shooter in dismissal attempt

Ruling expected at later date

OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. – The case against the parents of the Oxford High School shooter, who also face criminal charges in connection with the mass shooting, was heard in the state appeals court Tuesday morning as the defense attempts to get the case dismissed.

This live stream for this event has ended. You can watch the entire hearing in the video player down below.

The Michigan Court of Appeals heard the case against James and Jennifer Crumbley on Tuesday, March 7. The pair are each being charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter after their son killed four students and injured seven other people when he opened fire at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021.

In Michigan, involuntary manslaughter is defined as the unintentional killing of another person that resulted from recklessness or criminal negligence, or from another unrelated crime that’s a misdemeanor or low-level felony, like a DUI. Prosecutors accuse the parents of the Oxford shooter of being grossly negligent and failing to take steps that could have prevented the shooting.

Defense attorneys have been seeking to lower the Crumbleys’ bonds and dismiss the case against them altogether, maintaining that the allegations against them are an overreach. The appeals court initially denied to hear the case, but the Michigan Supreme Court intervened and ordered the appellate court to hear the case.

Three appellate judges heard brief arguments from the defense and the prosecution, and questioned the validity of the arguments from both sides. Defense attorneys argued that the Crumbley parents could not have foreseen the damage their son would inflict on Nov. 30, 2021. The prosecution argued that the parents had enough knowledge about their son’s situation to reasonably foresee that violence would occur, and that they had the responsibility to step in and do something.

Experts say it’s unusual that this case would be heard in the appeals court before the Crumbleys go to trial -- which was initially scheduled to begin in January. At least one judge appeared to agree with this sentiment Tuesday, telling the defense that the they weren’t there to dispute the evidence of the case, as defense could if the hearing were to occur post-trial. Instead, the issue at hand Tuesday was determining if James and Jennifer Crumbley could have reasonably foreseen the horror carried out by their son.

The case against the Crumbleys is novel in that no parents of a mass school shooter have ever faced charges before in the U.S.

Appellate judges did not issue a ruling on Tuesday. A decision on whether the Crumbleys’ case will go to trial is expected at a later, unknown date.

Prosecutors have accused the Crumbley parents of grossly neglecting their son, who showed significant signs of mental distress. The prosecution says not only did the parents fail to address their son’s requests for help, but they’re also accused of buying the gun used in the shooting, teaching their son to use it, and failing to store it securely in their home, allowing him easy access.

Since Dec. 4, 2021, James and Jennifer Crumbley have been lodged at the Oakland County Jail awaiting trial on $500,000 bonds each with no 10% options. Prosecutors have argued that the Crumbleys are flight risks and should be held on high bonds following the messy circumstances in which the parents were arrested.

The pair, who lived in Oxford, was picked up by police at a commercial building in Detroit on Dec. 4, 2021, a day after charges against them were publicly announced. James and Jennifer Crumbley were set to be arraigned on Dec. 3, 2021, but police could not locate them.

A manhunt was initiated to find them, and the Crumbleys were located overnight at the building in Detroit, which defense attorneys say was their friend’s art studio. Prosecutors argue that the couple was attempting to flee. In court documents filed in December 2022, defense attorneys claimed the Crumbleys planned to turn themselves in to authorities, and were staying just staying somewhere other than their home, where they feared they’d be targeted.

The couple has still remained in jail, separate from one another.

Their son, Ethan Crumbley, has since pleaded guilty to all 24 felony charges against him, including first-degree murder and terrorism. He is the first person in the U.S. to be convicted of terrorism in connection with a school shooting.

He is also lodged at the Oakland County Jail and is awaiting sentencing.

Watch the hearing

Find: Complete Oxford High School shooting coverage here

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.