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Crumbleys want some evidence barred from Oxford shooting trial


Pontiac — The pending trial for parents of the accused Oxford High shooter is five months away but their attorneys are compiling lists of objectionable evidence they want excluded from the trial they say will taint jurors’ views and violate their clients’ constitutional rights.

In the filing, it was revealed that accused shooter Ethan Crumbley wrote in his journal that he hoped the Nov. 30 shooting would lead to President Joe Biden’s impeachment.

Among objections defense attorneys Mariell Lehman and Shannon Smith raised in legal filings this week are to exclude:

  • All information about James and Jennifer Crumbley’s respective extramarital affairs, alcohol or marijuana use.
  • Questionable housekeeping practices.
  • Hobbies, such as horseback riding.

Attorneys contend the above have no relevance on the charge the Crumbleys face of involuntary manslaughter or improperly storing a handgun used in the killing of four students. Lehman represents James Crumbley and Smith is Jennifer Crumbley’s attorney.

Ethan Crumbley is referenced as “EC” throughout the filings, in deference to victims’ families who argue that  publicizing his name helps to serve the teenager’s expressed desire to become “famous” as a result of the tragedy.

Attorneys also argued jurors could be unfairly influenced about hearing the contents of Ethan’s 22-page personal journal; his texts to friends; torture-killing of baby birds; personal political and internet habits. None of the behavior was known to his parents, wrote the attorneys, who described it as inadmissible hearsay that violates their clients’ rights to confrontation and deprives them of a fair trial.

Oakland Circuit Judge Cheryl Matthews will hold a hearing on the defense motions on June 27. Besides legal points of law, defense attorneys are asking Matthews to direct Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald not to make public statements about any of the Crumbleys, the evidence against them “or opinions about their intentions, knowledge or guilt and to have her instruct other prosecutors or law enforcement to similarly refrain.”

Reached Thursday for comment on their various legal motions, Lehman said “We are not making any statements.”

“The motions filed Wednesday do not raise any new arguments or evidence,” said Oakland County Chief Assistant Prosecutor David Williams. “The prosecution will respond to the motions as permitted by the court at the appropriate time. The prosecution remains very confident in its case.”

The Crumbleys remain jailed pending an Oct. 24 trial date. If convicted, they face up to 15 years in prison.

Ethan Crumbley’s trial is schedule for Sept. 6. The 16-year-old, who remains in isolation in the Oakland County Jail, faces up to life in prison in the four deaths and wounding of six other students and a teacher. His attorneys have indicated they will seek an insanity defense for their client.

After the shooting, investigators found the teenager’s backpack in a school bathroom containing a journal with detailed plans on committing a mass murder at the school. Attorneys said the journal also contained writings of his parents’ actions and statements; criticisms of school officials and his parents; and other entries, including how he hoped the shooting he planned would lead to President Joe Biden’s impeachment.

Among cellphone texts the prosecution introduced at preliminary exam were entries where Ethan claimed he asked his parents to take him to a doctor and revealed his desire to become a school shooter, attorneys said. A detective also testified that Ethan visited a particular website 421 times in November 2021 searching for “graphic content,” including other school shootings.

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Defense attorneys said there was no evidence that the Crumbley parents knew of their son’s texts or his internet searches.

“These materials amount to inadmissible hearsay that violate the Crumbleys’ constitutional rights to confront the evidence at a trial, unless EC were to testify,” attorneys wrote to Matthews. “If EC testifies, the defense submits that the materials are still irrelevant as to Mr. and Mrs. Crumbleys’ guilt or innocence and the materials are far too prejudicial to be admissible at trial."

The attorneys also said McDonald and District Judge Julie Nicholson both abused their discretion in the case. McDonald, for media interviews including a Dec. 4, 2021 press conference in which she said involuntary manslaughter charge was “to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable, and also send a message that gun owners have a responsibility .”

Court testimony revealed the Crumbleys bought their son the handgun as an early Christmas present  and took him to a firing range to practice weeks before the shooting. The parents insisted they properly stored the weapon at home but somehow their son was able to access it on his own.

In a meeting with school officials on Nov. 30 to air concerns about their son’s behavior at school – searching for ammunition on his phone and scrawling disturbing drawings on his math homework – neither parent mentioned he had access to a handgun. Both refused to remove him from school and taken to a counselor, as officials suggested, and he was permitted to return to class.

Nicholson was singled out for binding the couple over to circuit court on involuntary manslaughter charges in February.

“There was extensive testimony that (EC) was certainly a troubled young man and that the defendants had knowledge of that situation,” Nicholson said at the preliminary district court examination. “But they purchased a gun which he believed was his and that he was free to use. Therefore, the Court is binding the defendants over as charged.”

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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