The Horror of Oxford

Against the Current, No. 216, January-February 2022

THE HORROR OF the Oxford, Mich­i­gan high school mass shooting has highlighted the brutal contradictions of the current legal system. As a conservative Detroit News columnist Nolan Finley wrote of the 15-year-old shooter, “Ethan Crumbley, as charged, is a stone-cold killer…He is despicable. He is evil. He’s also something else: a child.”

Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald has charged Ethan Crumbley with four counts of first-degree murder, each carrying mandatory life without parole sentences, as well as other crimes include one “terrorism” (?) count. Although she “likely felt she had little choice in charging Ethan as an adult,” Finley writes, there was an alternative “blended sentence option that would allow Ethan to be prosecuted in the juvenile system and , if found guilty, imprisoned in a youth facility until he’s 21” when “he would be evaluated whether he’s still a risk to society. If so, he could be resentenced as an adult.”

That looks like common sense, especially as Crumbley’s parents — who bought the gun as a Christmas present, and refused to take him out of school on the day of the shooting when he had displayed alarming behavior — are charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Deborah La Belle of the ACLU’s Juvenile Justice Project posed the pertinent question: “If you’re going to charge the parents, how do you not recognize that he’s a child?” (Nolan Finley, “A child killer, perhaps. But still a child,” Detroit News and Free Press, Sunday, December 5, 2021)

January-February 2022, ATC 216

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