PONTIAC, Mich. (FOX 2) - Jennifer Crumbley's fate is now in the hands of 12 Oakland County citizens that were tasked with the unprecedented challenge of whether to convict the parent of a mass shooter who was charged in connection with their child's crimes.
Jurors failed to reach a verdict after one day of deliberations and will return Tuesday to continue discussing the charge of involuntary manslaughter.
The case is a novel one and challenges legal precedents about where a parent's responsibility lies as it relates to caring for their child. Was Crumbley so negligent of her child's actions and behavior that her decision, or lack of decisions, led to the deaths of four teenagers at Oxford High School?
During the first day of deliberations, the jury asked two questions after starting off their discussions: they sought a clarification of the prosecutor's burden to prove involuntary manslaughter - as well as information about how the shooter obtained the firearm.
Both questions provide a peek into how the jury is weighing the decision.
What the jury is thinking
Even for attorneys that watched the trial, determining which way the jury is siding with is a tricky one to consider.
"You know as a defense attorney I’m always in the mindset of ‘not guilty,'" said Attorney Todd Perkins. "But as a practical person, I think it defies practicality. If I’m just going to just offer you an opinion because of how I feel, I have to know how they feel is most important."
And knowing how they feel is even harder to consider.
Many are gun owners or grew up with guns in the home. Many are also parents. Both are important factors in the case and could influence how the jurors get to a verdict. Other than background information and the questions they've asked, the only other way of gauging the jury's feelings was being in the courtroom during the trial, Perkins said.
"You have to really be in that courtroom to get a litmus test on what they’re feeling, what their sentiment is, how they received it, how they received Ms. Crumbley," he said.
Setting a legal precedent
Tonya Krause-Phelan, a Cooley Law School dean and professor, said because this is the first time a parent of a shooter has been charged, the case does raise some serious implications.
"Especially with the Second Amendment right, and being a nation of gun ownership –proud gun ownership– what implication does it have for families who have weapons in their homes?" Phelan said. "What does this mean for me as a parent? How much do I have to know? Do I need to start going through every single message on my child's phone? Do I have to peak into their journal?"
So what does this mean for James Crumbley's upcoming trial?
"If there’s a ‘not guilty’ verdict, then the prosecution has to make a determination: ‘Do we want to go forward and prosecute James Crambley?’" Perkins said.
Both legal experts said the jury can take as long as they need to come to a decision.
"For such a serious charge, this is a good sign that the jury is taking their time," Phelan said. "They’re deliberating appropriately."
Perkins emphasized that if deliberations go until later in the week, the jury may not come to an agreement.