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Oxford High School shooting suspect to pursue insanity defense

School Shooting Oxford, Michigan
Jake May/AP
The Flint Journal
A bouquet of roses sits on a sign outside of Oxford High School on the day after the school shooting in Oxford, Mich. Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. A 15-year-old sophomore opened fire at the school, killing several students and wounding multiple other people, including a teacher. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)

Attorneys say the teenager charged with killing four students at Oxford High School will pursue an insanity defense. A summary of case filings available online says a notice was filed Thursday.

The filing comes the same day as a new lawsuit alleging negligence by school officials and Ethan Crumbley's parents over the attack.

The lawsuit is on behalf of the parents of Tate Myer, who was slain November 30, 2021 and other students who witnessed the shootings. The Associated Press sent an email seeking comment from the school district.

Fifteen-year-old Ethan Crumbley is accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people on November 30, 2021.

The notification to the court of the planned defense means Crumbley will get at least one psychiatric examination, at the state's Center for Forensic Psychiatry.

Tonya Krause-Phelan teaches at Western Michigan University's Cooley Law School.

She says it's very difficult to get an acquittal based on insanity, because first, the jury has to find the defendant guilty of the crimes.

"It's hard for [the jury] to put 'not guilty because of insanity' after that, especially in a high-profile or particularly heinous type of offense."

Krause-Phelan says even if a jury did acquit someone because they believed the person was insane at the time of the crimes, that person would almost certainly not go free. They could be held for decades in a psychiatric hospital.

An example is John Hinckley, who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan.

"He was in a mental health facility for years until it was determined that he was no longer a danger to himself or others," she says.

Krause-Phelan says sometimes prosecutors in Michigan offer juries a compromise to consider — "guilty but mentally ill."

In that case, the person would go to prison after conviction, but is supposed to get mental health treatment through the Michigan Department of Corrections.

The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.
Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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