News of his intention to plead guilty emerged Friday, nearly 10 months after his attorneys said in court filings that they planned to pursue an insanity defense. His lawyers said in court Monday they were withdrawing the notice.
Crumbley’s guilty plea to first-degree murder counts could see him spend the rest of his life in prison. Ven Johnson, an attorney for the families of some of the victims in a lawsuit against Crumbley, said the plea was a “small step” towards getting full justice.
“We will continue to fight until the truth is revealed about what went wrong before this tragedy, and who, including Crumbley’s parents and several staff at Oxford Community Schools, could and should have gone wrong. ‘prevent,” Johnson said in a statement.
The Nov. 30 shooting resulted in extraordinary charges: a state-level domestic terrorism charge against the suspect and manslaughter charges against his parents, who bought him the gun that was allegedly used during the attack.
“We are not aware of any other cases in the country where a mass shooter has been convicted of terrorism on state charges,” the Oakland County District Attorney told reporters Monday. , Karen McDonald.
In court, Crumbley admitted that he asked his father, James Crumbley, to buy the gun for him and gave him his own money to pay for it. Ethan Crumbley said the gun was not kept locked in the family home.
Prosecutor Marc Keast asked Crumbley if he deliberately killed each victim, reading their names out loud: Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana and Justin Shilling. Crumbley recognized each.
“Is it true that when you committed these crimes, you intended to scare students and teachers, and you intended to cause panic among the Oxford High School community?” Keast asked.
“Yes,” Crumbley replied.
Unusual charges and uncertain impact
Crumbley’s case is notable for the fact that most perpetrators charged in school and mass shooting cases never make it to trial; most kill themselves or are killed by the police during a confrontation. But his state terrorism charge represents a relatively new approach to prosecuting mass shootings.
Michigan was an early adopter of the post-9/11 trend of making terrorism a state-level crime and has one of the most robust laws of the 34 states and the District of Columbia that prosecute the state-level terrorism. The laws were originally crafted for a very different purpose than how they are used in the Crumbley case, according to Javed Ali, a University of Michigan public policy professor who has worked in counterterrorism for the government. federal.
“Even though the [laws] have been on the books for years, for some reason it only seems now that prosecutors and attorneys general are using this part of their toolkit to be more aggressive in the face of mass shootings,” Ali said.
The Michigan law is a means by which state and local authorities can fill the void in federal law, since there is no federal charge of domestic terrorism, only a statutory definition of it. That’s why every act of violence in the United States that meets the definition of domestic terrorism is never charged by the federal government as such, Ali said.
“It’s usually a hate crime or a conspiracy charge,” he said.
The Oxford attack marks a turning point in how mass shootings are prosecuted, Ali said, citing the suspect of the Tops grocery store shooting in Buffalo who has been charged with hate crimes at the state and federal levels, and on Domestic terrorism charges in New York.
Last year, McDonald explained that his decision to bring the terrorism charge against Crumbley was a way to speak to victims who survived the shooting but whose lives were permanently changed by it and their families. .
“And all the kids running around, screaming, hiding under the desks?” mcdonald said during a press conference. “What about all the kids at home right now who can’t eat and can’t sleep and can’t imagine a world where they could ever set foot in this school again? They are also victims, just like their families, and the community too. And the terrorism charge reflects that.
Ali suspected that state-level terrorism charges could become a model for how mass shootings are prosecuted.
“It can be used to investigate and prosecute,” he said of the prosecution. “But will that deter? That’s the $64,000 question.
Focus on getting back to the shooter’s parents
Crumbley’s plea means he could be forced to testify at his parents’ trial; if he is subpoenaed, he could not invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination because he has already pleaded guilty to his charges.
James and Jennifer Crumbley last year were in charge of four counts of manslaughter, another relatively rare move in which prosecutors have sought to extend responsibility for a mass shooting to a suspect’s parents. Investigators said the Crumbleys bought a gun for their son as a gift and did not intervene when he showed signs of distress.
After the shooting, prosecutors revealed that teachers at Oxford High had raised concerns about Ethan Crumbley to his parents until the day of the shooting when they summoned the family to the school for a meeting.
“I’m not saying in any way that an active shooter situation should always result in criminal charges against the parents,” McDonald said at the time. “But the facts of this case are so stark.”
On the day of the shooting, a teacher found a drawing of a semi-automatic handgun with a note written: “Thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” James and Jennifer Crumbley met with school administrators that morning but refused to take their son home, allowing him to return to class.
Hours later, when news of the shooting broke, Jennifer Crumbley texted her son, “Ethan, don’t.”
The couple, who pleaded not guilty, went to trial in July see their case dismissed, arguing that they should never have been charged because their son is solely responsible for the murders of four people.
Their trial was scheduled to begin on Monday but was postponed due to apparent challenges from the defense over what kind of expert testimony might be allowed at their trial, according to court records. No new date has been set.