Jennifer Crumbley trial: What the jury must decide

After seven days of testimony and evidence, Jennifer Crumbley's fate is now in the hands of 12 Oakland County men and women as they will decide if the mother of the Oxford High School shooter is partly responsible for the deaths of Hana St. Juliana, Tate Myre, Madisyn Baldwin, and Justin Shilling.

The jury trial started on January 25 after two days of jury selection. The pool was narrowed to 17 jurists, five of which are alternates and must wait in a different jury room and cannot deliberate the case. If something were to happen to one of the 12 jurists – like an illness or extenuating circumstance – one of the five alternates would be called in to sit on the jury.

Jennifer and her husband James were both charged in connection with the death of four students at Oxford High School. Their son, who committed the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting, was sentenced to life in prison last year. It is the first time a parent has been charged with manslaughter in connection with a mass shooting committed by their child.

James' trial is set for March 5 but could be dependent upon the outcome of Jennifer's trial. 

Jennifer Crumbley was charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count for each student killed by her son at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021. 

Judge Matthews read each charge to the jury – and what they must do in order to find a guilty verdict.

"In count one that is charged with the crime of involuntary manslaughter. In order to prove this charge, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt. First, that the defendant caused the death of Madisyn Baldwin. That is, that Madisyn Baldwin died as a result of storing a firearm and its ammunition so as to allow access to the firearm and ammunition by her minor child. And second, in doing that act caused Madisyn Baldwin's death, the defendant acted in a grossly negligent manner," Matthews said.

She then repeated each instruction for each victim - Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana, and Justin Shilling. 

If, for any reason, the jurors believe that Jennifer's did not directly lead to the murders and they find reasonable doubt, they must find her not guilty. 

She then read through why the prosecution is arguing in support of the conviction – either of which can be used by the jury to find her guilty.

"First, the prosecutor claims that the defendant committed involuntary manslaughter because she failed to perform a legal duty. In the alternative, the prosecutor claims that the defendant committed involuntary manslaughter because she was grossly negligent," Matthews said. "Either or both of these theories, if proven, are sufficient to establish the crime of involuntary manslaughter. It's not necessary that you all agree on which theory has been proven. As long as you all agree that the prosecutor has to prove at least one of those theories beyond a reasonable doubt."

To prove the charge of involuntary manslaughter, the prosecutor had to prove the following: That Jennifer had a legal duty to the victims. 

"In Michigan, a parent has a legal duty to exercise reasonable care to control their minor child so as to prevent the minor child from intentionally harming others or prevent the minor child from conducting themselves in a way that creates an unreasonable risk of bodily harm to others. This duty arises from both of the following are true: A). A parent knows that he has reason to know that they have the ability to control the minor child and B) the parent knows the necessity and opportunity for exercising such control," Matthews said.

The other factor for the jury to decide is if Jennifer Crumbley know of those facts and if she willfully neglected or refused to perform the duty – which was to the point that it was grossly negligent to the victims to the point that it caused their deaths.

In other words, the jury must decide, based on the evidence and testimony, if Jennifer Crumbley could have prevented the tragedy and if she was negligent in her actions as a mother, which ultimately led to the shooting.

What did Jennifer Crumbley do?

The prosecution argues that Jennifer and James ignored their son's mental health and even bought him a gun before the Oxford High School shooting. 

Jennifer's attorney maintains that her client knew nothing about guns and was not involved in purchasing the weapon. Receipts provided in court show that James bought the gun, and the shooter admitted during his plea hearing that he gave James money to buy the firearm. Video from a gun range showed Jennifer shooting a gun with her son, but her lawyer claims she didn't know what she was doing.

Journal entries detailing the shooter's mental state have been presented in court, but Jennifer's defense argues that there is no evidence Jennifer knew about this writing.

Witnesses called by the prosecution during the trial have also described a meeting between the Crumbley parents and school officials the morning of the shooting. The parents were called after violent drawings were discovered on their son's schoolwork. 

During this meeting, a school counselor told the parents to get their son mental health help as soon as possible and recommended that they take him home from school. However, the parents chose not to take him home.

Jennifer Crumbley's trial so far

Read recaps of each day of testimony below:

Day 1: Oxford teacher, assistant principal testify

Day 2: Messages between shooter, parents shown

Day 3: Parents' first police interview shown

Day 4: Ex-Oxford High School dean questioned, Crumbley's colleagues testify 

Day 5: Extramarital affair revealed, arrest video shown

Day 6: Jennifer Crumbley takes the stand

Day 7: Closing arguments