Stateside Podcast: Legal aftermath of Oxford shooting
Just over one year ago, on November 30, 2021, a tragic shooting occurred at Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan. A student, who was 15-years-old at the time, opened fire inside the school, killing four and injuring seven others. Both the shooter and his parents are incarcerated. Legal affairs reporter Tresa Baldas of the Detroit Free Press joined the Stateside podcast for an update on the cases related to the shooting.
Although the shooter pleaded guilty to all 24 charges brought against him in October of 2022, there are still several legal steps that need to be taken before the teenager can be sentenced. According to Baldas, the case is complicated by the fact that he was a juvenile at the time of his crimes and will be a juvenile until the year 2024.
“You can't automatically sentence a juvenile to life in prison without parole,” Baldas said. “That's what the prosecutor has recommended. So they're going to have a hearing. It's called a Miller hearing, that's coming up in February, where both sides will argue for and against sentencing him to life in prison. And a judge will have to decide if this case warrants that he's entitled to that type of hearing.”
While the shooter’s case is entering its final stages in the justice system, the trial of both of his parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, have yet to begin. Both parents are facing charges of involuntary manslaughter, but the defendants’ attorneys have argued that the charges were improperly approved. The Michigan Supreme Court has issued stays on both cases while the Michigan Court of Appeals decides whether the trial should proceed.
This is the first case in which the parents of a mass school shooter are being charged in crimes related to the shooting. With little to no legal precedent to draw upon, the trial presents a unique challenge for both the defense and prosecution to argue their cases to the jury.
“So the big key here is that, you know, can the prosecution show that the Crumbleys knew their son was going to do this,” Baldas said. “The defense says they can never show that. And more than that, the Crumbleys say, we never knew our kid was going to do this. We never knew that. We never expected this. So that's where these charges get difficult to prove.”
There are also several pending civil cases against the Oxford School District, several school district employees, and the dealer that sold James Crumbley the firearm that was used in the November 30, 2022 shooting. The lawsuits, filed by the families of the victims and other members of the community, have raised questions about the possibility of bringing criminal charges against other individuals within the school district and beyond. Although Tresa Baldas is skeptical about the possibility of additional criminal charges, she hopes that the lawsuits will bring answers to a grieving community, and prevent another tragedy.
“I think the lawsuits are going to dig up a lot more discovery. We're going to find out a lot more information about what happened, what should have happened,” Baldas said. “I don't think that there's anybody in that school or the school district that doesn't feel bad about this”.
Tresa Baldas, legal affairs reporter, The Detroit Free Press
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Music in this episode by Blue Dot Sessions.