According to MSNBC legal analyst Danny Cevallos, the arrest and involuntary manslaughter indictments of James and Jennifer Crumbley, after their 15-year-old son Ethan used a handgun they bought him to murder four of his classmates, should serve as a warning to gun-owners that prosecutors are going to be more aggressive about gun-related attacks.
The Michigan parents were taken into custody early Saturday morning as they hid in an industrial park 40 miles from their community instead of turning themselves in to law enforcement for processing.
Regardless of their attempts to flee, Cevallos wrote that rules are changing in a country that has grown weary of mass shootings.
"Charging the parents with manslaughter for permitting their child access to a firearm used in a shooting is not unprecedented, but it may signal a new trend," he suggested. "The prosecutor here is not charging the parents under specific gun-related statutes. Rather, involuntary manslaughter can be applied to any creative theory of gross negligence that results in death."
According to the legal analyst, the increased threat of prosecution, along with more attempts to keep schools safe, "could be a powerful preventative fix."
"Manslaughter is defined as murder without malice — that is, murder without the intent to kill. In Michigan, involuntary manslaughter is a catch-all crime that encompasses killings that are not murder, voluntary manslaughter, or a justified or excused homicide," he explained. "To convict the parents of involuntary manslaughter, the state will have to prove that the parents were 'grossly negligent' in allowing their son access to a firearm, and that their gross negligence caused the deaths of the students."
"Factual causation is straightforward: it just asks whether the shootings would have happened if the parents didn’t let their son have access to the gun. Proximate causation, on the other hand, is a far more elusive concept," he elaborated. "If the tragic deaths were not a foreseeable result of the parents’ conduct, then they might not have proximately caused them. The prosecutor will likely introduce evidence that the parents had plenty of clues that their son was dangerous. If this tragedy was foreseeable, the state will argue the parents proximately caused it."
Cevallos went on to add that, in the case of the Crumbleys, "I suspect that the hunters I know in the Wolverine State would fully support this prosecution of James and Jennifer Crumbley."
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