Charges Against Ethan Crumbley Complicate Case Against His Parents

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Damir Mujezinovic

Fifteen-year-old Ethan Crumbley opened fire inside Michigan's Oxford High School on November 30, killing four of his fellow students.

Hit with with 24 charges -- including murder, terrorism, assault and weapons possession -- Ethan will be tried as an adult. His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, are both facing four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Ethan being charged as an adult suggests he acted under his own autonomy, but does this also undermine the case against his parents?

Here's what one renowned legal expert has to say.

Charging Ethan As Adult

Eve Primus, a professor of criminal law at the University of Michigan's Law School and a former public defender, told Newsweek that Ethan's parents could benefit from him being charged as an adult.

"Ethan Crumbley, if he's a child who's under their control, it's less likely that he can independently break the chain from them to these deaths. But by charging him as an adult, the prosecutor is communicating their view, that he is an independent actor and has the agency and decision-making capability that an adult would have," Primus explained.

Involuntary Manslaughter

When charging individuals with involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors need to prove gross negligence and causation, according to Primus.

To prove gross negligence on James and Jennifer's part, the prosecutors would have to demonstrate they did not try to avert the shooting, Primus said.

As for causation, according to Primus, the persecution has to prove James and Jennifer caused the deaths in the mass shooting. In other words, the prosecutors would have to prove Ethan used the gun his parents purchased, and demonstrate the parents were liable.

Burden Of Proof

Primus stressed that the prosecutors must demonstrate whether the shooting was something James and Jennifer could "reasonably foresee having happened, given their negligent actions."

But if Ethan is indeed an adult who acted under his own autonomy, how can his parents be to blame for what happened?

On the other hand, Primus said, the involuntary manslaughter charges against James and Jennifer most likely won't have much of an effect on Ethan's case.

"The prosecutors' focus in the homicide case with respect to Ethan is going to be on what he did and what his intent was. In doing that, the parents don't play into that picture nearly as much," the legal expert said.

James And Jennifer Crumbley

[10 Tampa Bay][YouTube]

James and Jennifer Crumbley appeared in a Michigan court on Tuesday, as reported by The New York Post.

Both of them appeared very emotional and struggled to hold back tears. They wore masks and only spoke when questioned by Oakland County Judge Julie Nicholson, answering with "Yes, your honor."

James was seen mouthing "I love you" to his wife as she looked at him.

As The Inquisitr previously reported, James and Jennifer have hired expensive, high-profile lawyers to defend them.

Ethan, meanwhile, will be represented by a public defender.

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