Are The Parents To Blame?

One question yet to be answered is who is to blame for the massacre in Littleton, Colo.

Fingers have pointed at gunmakers, violent movies and video games. But the parents of one of the young victims believe much of the blame lies squarely on the parents of the two gunmen.

Now the parents of the dead boy are suing, accusing the shooters' parents of failing to properly supervise and control their children, CBS This Morning co-anchor Thalia Assuras reports.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger filed the lawsuit in state court on behalf of the parents of Isaiah Shoels, 18, who witnesses said was gunned down because he was black and an athlete.

"Responsibility for violence sometimes extends beyond the person who pulls the trigger," Fieger said. "It sometimes extends to those who contribute to individual acts of violence."

"The massacre that occurred at Columbine High School and others around this country are a harbinger of worse to come. Our children are losing their childhood and their lives to violence," Fieger told a news conference.

The lawsuit, the first stemming from the shooting, names Wayne and Katherine Harris, and Thomas and Susan Klebold, whose sons hurled bombs and blasted away with guns inside Columbine on April 20, killing 12 students and a teacher. The boys, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, then committed suicide.

Investigators have said Harris, 18, and Klebold, 17, had planned the attack for more than a year. In the Harris home, investigators found bomb-making materials, Nazi literature and a diary that described how the massacre would be carried out. And the sawed-off barrel of a shotgun was lying on a dresser in Harris' bedroom.

Isaiah Shoels (CBS)
Shortly after the attack, Sheriff John Stone wondered how the young men's activities could have gone unnoticed and said: "I think parents should be accountable for their kids' actions."

The lawsuit alleges the parents failed to take corrective action when their sons stockpiled guns and bombs, and gave them "extraordinary privileges" despite their run-ins with the law.

The parents "had a duty to not act negligently and to not expose others to the unreasonable risk of harm by such negligence," the lawsuit says.

Although courts have ruled parents can be held liable for such things as property damage done by their children, this type of case is much more difficult to prove, legal analysts said.

"What we're talking about is an intentional, deliberate, criminal act," said Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz. "It would probably be illegal to hold parents responsible for their children's actions unless you can show some specific fault on the part of the parents."

Attorne Andrew Cohen of Denver, a legal analyst for the news media, said Fieger would have to prove the parents should have known their teen-agers were arming for an attack.

"It may turn out that they knew their kids weren't angels. That's a very far stretch from proving the attack would take place," Cohen said.

Feiger blamed "mindless rhetoric about Second Amendment Rights" to bear arms and the modern media for the surge in violence among young people. "Our children are being raised by Jerry Springer and the Internet," he said.

Colorado law puts a $250,000 limit on damage awards for negligence caused by a minor. Fieger, of Southfield, Mich., said if he wins the case, he will file an appeal to exceed the limit.
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.