18 August 2023
PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A judge will hear a fourth and final day of testimony Friday to determine whether a teenager will get a life sentence for the fatal shooting of four students at a Michigan school in 2021.
An immediate decision is not expected. Prosecutors are planning to counter claims made by a psychologist who said Ethan Crumbley was like a “feral child” and mentally ill when he attacked students and staff at Oxford High School.
Crumbley, now 17, pleaded guilty to murder, terrorism and other crimes. His attorneys are arguing he can be rehabilitated while in prison and should receive a sentence giving him an opportunity for parole some day.
“Ethan’s brain is still maturing,” psychologist Colin King said on Aug. 1.
Because of his age — 15 at the time of the shooting — the teen can’t automatically be given life sentence. Oakland County Judge Kwame Rowe must consider his maturity, mental health, tumultuous family life and other factors set by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Rowe still can order a life sentence, but it would be rare for a Michigan teen. Crumbley otherwise would face a minimum prison sentence between 25 years and 40 years, followed by eligibility for parole.
Defense attorney Paulette Michel Loftin has described the shooter’s childhood: violence in the home, mental illness, no counseling, access to weapons.
“And where did that lead us?” she asked King, who tested and interviewed the teen.
“Tragedy,” he replied.
James and Jennifer Crumbley are separately charged with involuntary manslaughter. They are accused of buying a gun for their son and ignoring his mental health.
Prosecutors seeking a life sentence so far have focused on the chilling details of the crime. Ethan Crumbley made a video on the eve of the shooting, declaring in blunt words what he would do the next day.
The judge listened to eyewitness accounts from four people, including a staff member who was wounded and a student who saved a wounded girl. Besides the deaths of four students, seven other people were shot.
There were opportunities to prevent the tragedy. No one checked the shooter’s backpack for a gun that day, although he was pulled into a meeting with his parents and school staff because of his violent drawings. He was allowed to remain in school.
Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwritez