Power & Market

A Michigan Jury Destroys 200 Years of Supreme Court Precedence. Progressives Celebrate

Power & Market William L. Anderson

Progressives are celebrating yesterday’s Michigan verdict in which an Oakland County jury effectively overturned a couple of U.S. Supreme Court rulings from the early 1800s in order to enable prosecutors to convict people of crimes even though they did not break statutory law. According to the New York Times:

The guilty verdict on Tuesday against the mother of a Michigan teenager who murdered four students in 2021 in the state’s deadliest school shooting is likely to ripple across the country’s legal landscape as prosecutors find themselves weighing a new way to seek justice in mass shootings.

In convicting Jennifer Crumbley of involuntary manslaughter after her then 15-year-old son Ethan Crumbley killed four fellow students and wounded several others in a school shooting, using a gun that his parents legally purchased for him, the jury (urged on both by the prosecutor and the judge) vastly expanded criminal law using common-law mechanism. This overturns long-held policies by both state and federal governments to leave criminal law as statutory:

Criminal Law, though, has not been a true common law subject for many years. The Supreme Court, for example, announced almost 200 years ago that there are no federal common law crimes. As a result of the nineteenth century codification movement, every American state has for decades accepted the notion of legislative supremacy in Criminal Law-the idea that legislators rather than judges should create and define criminal offenses.

As I will point out in an upcoming article that takes an in-depth look at this case and its implications, Jennifer and James Crumbley were neglectful parents and they made numerous errors in judgment in how to deal with their troubled son. They also are Trump supporters, which further casts them into a category of people progressives believe should be denied basic rights. However, neither of them broke any statutory laws with the gun purchase for Ethan or how they stored it in their home. Nor did they break the law or defy medical or legal directives in their interactions with Ethan.

(Bad parental judgment is not necessarily illegal. If it were, most of us who have reared troubled children would be in jail.)

Instead, jurors decided that Ms. Crumbley should have known that her son would engage in a school shooting, and that she didn’t do enough as a parent to stop this tragedy. Perhaps we should note that school officials also knew about some of Ethan’s issues and even decided not to search the boy’s backpack at school less than two hours before he went on his shooting rampage.

In other words, government officials had both information and the legal authority to intervene but chose not do so, yet the mother is the one going to prison for many years while no government official will lose anything. (The father, James Crumbley, is scheduled to go to trial next month.)

In his article today on the Mises Wire, Connor O’Keeffe notes that progressive prosecutors for political reasons refuse to enforce existing law in many jurisdictions even when perpetrators engage in violent criminal activity. We can add that the same political ideology that encourages progressive prosecutors to neglect existing law will encourage them to use criminal law to go after anyone who falls on the wrong side of the leftist political spectrum.

One can hope that the appeals courts or SCOTUS will see this verdict for what it is and overturn it, but given that US courts are as politicized as the rest of society, it is doubtful that they will do their duty.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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