Criminal Justice

Parents of Michigan School Shooter Appeal Manslaughter Charge

Plus: The emptiness of "national conservatism," anti-tech antitrust antics, and more...


Should parents be held legally liable if their child shoots people? That's the question at the center of a Michigan case straight out of the Law & Order franchise. The case stems from a 2021 mass shooting at Oxford High School, in which Ethan Crumbley killed four people. Crumbley's parents, James and Jennifer, were charged with involuntary manslaughter. "The Crumbleys are the first parents in America to be charged in a mass school shooting," notes the Detroit Free Press.

Now, James and Jennifer Crumbley have appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals. They suggest that the state has no legal ground on which to bring such charges and is trying to change gun policy through criminal charges rather than through legislation.

"The desire to hold someone accountable for the tragedy that occurred at Oxford High School on November 30, 2021, is certainly understandable, but 'the temptation to stretch the law to fit the evil is an ancient one, and it must be resisted,'" states their appeal, filed on Monday. "There can be little doubt that the charges against Mr. and Mrs. Crumbley … are borne out of a desire to hold persons accountable for criminal acts, where no legal justification exists to do so. However, to extend the law in such a way involves important policy decisions of broad social consequences, reaching far beyond this single case. Such a task, then, should be resolved through the legislative process, and not judicial innovation."

The state argues James and Jennifer Crumbley are partly responsible for the shooting because they bought him the handgun he used, failed to tell the school about the gun, and allegedly failed to adequately address Ethan's mental health issues.

The Crumbleys say they kept the gun they bought the son in a secure place and couldn't know his mental health problems would lead him to commit a horrific crime.

Should the case against the Crumbley parents be allowed to proceed, it would set a dangerous precedent. Maybe most parents of teen shooters don't purchase the guns their kids use, but most could probably be accused after the fact of not adequately tending to the child's mental health—when things go wrong, there's frequently a tendency to assume someone could have done more. And if this stands, it's probably not long before the rationale extends beyond school shootings to other scenarios where troubled teens commit crimes. But the sad reality is that in many cases, there's not a lot that parents could do. And punishing parents for the criminal acts of their children may only lead to innocent people being wronged and law enforcement resources being wasted.

In their appeal, the Crumbleys' defense cites a 1961 Michigan Supreme Court decision involving "a man who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for giving his car keys to a drunk man who got into a car accident that night, killing himself and another motorist," notes the Free Press. "The Supreme Court ended up vacating that conviction, concluding the man who handed over his keys was not guilty of involuntary manslaughter because he was not present when the accident happened, nor did he counsel the driver in the killing or take part in it."

If convicted, James and Jennifer Crumbley could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison. Their trial is slated to start in October. Ethan Crumbley's trial is scheduled for January 2023.


The National Interest explores "the poverty of national conservatism":

On the domestic level, the National Conservative statement devotes considerable space to emphasizing the need to reaffirm institutions like the traditional family and religion. It's not hard to find conservatives who believe that these were neglected by those elements of the American Right that prioritized liberty. Here, national conservatives have some neoconservatives but above all libertarians, particularly the left-leaning variety, in mind.

Beyond these broad emphases, however, nailing down the content of national conservatism has not been easy. It's one thing to state that you want to reaffirm national sovereignty. What, however, does that mean in practice beyond, say, enforcing un-enforced border laws or putting supranational institutions like the European Union and outfits like the World Economic Forum firmly in their place?

Similarly, simply saying that you desire to bolster traditional families or protect religious communities from aggressive progressives doesn't tell us much about how you intend to do it. Holding congressional hearings into how America ended up with schools and libraries hosting weekly drag-queen hours won't strike many people as necessarily leading to very much by way of concrete action.


"Businesses are competitive" should not be news. In fact, it's the goal of all sorts of businesses to out-compete similarly situated companies. Yet for some reason, when big tech companies do it, everyone freaks out. The idea that companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Meta try to boost their own products over those of their competitors has been—and continues to be—the subject of ample criticism from politicians and the media.

The House Judiciary Committee investigating these companies for possible antitrust violations recently provided documents from its 2020 investigation to Politico, which reports that "the documents bolster the committee's claims that the internet giants illegally favor their own products, a practice that pending legislation to update antitrust laws would make more difficult."

It's not illegal for tech companies to merely favor their own products—like promoting Amazon-brand products higher in search results or pre-installing Google Chrome browsers on Google-owned Android phones—in the same way that it's not illegal for supermarkets to place store-brand products on the best shelves, or for magazines to choose not to accept advertisements for rival magazines, or for movie theaters to prohibit people from bringing in their own food and drinks. But some lawmakers want to make it illegal for large tech companies to do so.


• Legislation under the same name has been introduced in previous congresses (beginning in 2009) but never gone up for a full House vote. More on the current House bill here; companion bill in the Senate here.

• It may be too late to contain the monkeypox virus that's spreading throughout the world. In the nine weeks since several cases were first detected in the U.K., "the number of cases has mushroomed to nearly 13,000 in over 60 countries throughout Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, new parts of Africa, South Asia, and Australia," reports STAT.

• Sixteen Democratic lawmakers, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Presley (Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Cori Bush (Mo.) were arrested along with other abortion rights protesters outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

• Repeated lockdowns and security alerts in Uvalde—"nearly 50 between February and May alone," reports the Associated Press—contributed to a "diminished sense of vigilance" that may have made the shooting at Robb Elementary School worse, says the Texas House of Representatives in a new report. In South Texas, lockdowns are often called when federal or state police are chasing migrants trying to cross the border.

• We could use a reinvigorated skeptic movement, suggests Freddie deBoer. "The dimming of the light of generalist skepticism seemed to contribute to the ever-metastasizing cultural tumor of woo woo and irrationality."

• Not everything is a national emergency.

• But of course:

• Ohio's Supreme Court has rejected the state's congressional map. "The previously submitted maps did not stand up to anti-gerrymandering provisions in the state Constitution," notes NBC News. The "court held in a 4-3 decision that the proposed redistricting plan 'unduly favors the Republican Party and disfavors the Democratic Party.'"

• "One armed man at an Indiana Mall offered better protection than 376 cops in Uvalde," writes J.D. Tuccille.

• "The Idaho Republican Party on Saturday amended its platform to oppose abortion in all instances, including as a life-saving procedure for a pregnant woman," writes Emma Camp.