James Crumbley: Former students taking stand is “unfairly prejudicial”

Posted at 8:38 PM, February 21, 2024

PONTIAC, Mich. (Scripps News Detroit) — When James Crumbley, the father of the Oxford High School shooter, and his attorney learned that prosecutors wanted to call two former students to the stand, they made it clear to the judge that they believed it would be “highly unfairly prejudicial.”

James Crumbley

James Crumbley appears in court at a pre-trial hearing on Dec. 13, 2023. (Court TV)

“While I can’t imagine what those two students went through on November 30, 2021, their testimony is not relevant in the trial against James Crumbley,” said Mariell Lehman, Crumbley’s defense attorney. “He’s been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. He’s not charged with assaulting anyone with a firearm. He’s not charged with shooting anyone and wounding anyone. He’s charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter for the actions of his son.”

The two former students, both now over the age of 18, survived the gunshot wounds inflicted upon them by Crumbley’s then 15-year-old son.

The assistant prosecutor on the case, Marc Keast, said the two students would provide testimony different from that of a teacher, who was also shot, and the assistant principal who saw Crumbley’s son walking down the hallway with the gun in his hand.

“When we have actual eyewitness testimony available, it is important for the jury to hear that perspective,” said Keast, adding that the families of the former students have said that they would be able and willing to testify if called to the stand.

Attorney Todd Flood, who is not involved in any of the Crumbleys’ criminal cases, thinks the judge will allow the prosecution to call them to the stand.

“I don’t think, based on what came out in the first trial, Judge Cheryl Matthews is going to exclude them,” said Flood. “I don’t think she’s going to exclude them because you had a teacher, you had a principal, you had people that saw it as well.”

Crumbley and his attorney have filed a motion seeking to exclude his son’s journal writings and text messages his son sent to a friend.

In her motion, Crumbley’s defense attorney Mariell Lehman wrote, “In addition to the statements expected to be admitted, there are other statements in the journal which are contradictory and exculpate Mr. Crumbley. Allowing some but not all relevant statements will mislead the jury.”

The defense is also seeking to have the trial held in another county, arguing that there has been too much publicity at the local level to find potential jurors that will be fair and impartial.

“It appears that more people are interested in James and Jennifer’s cases than the shooter’s case despite the fact that the shooter planned and carried out the school shooting admittedly without anyone else’s knowledge,” Lehman wrote in her motion.

Flood believes they will be able to find a jury in Oakland County that will be able to make their decision based on the evidence presented at trial.

“Judge Cheryl Matthews is going to attempt to impanel a jury and to see if there can be a fair and impartial jury impaneled. I just don’t see that they won’t get that,” Flood said.

The prosecution and defense each get five peremptory challenges during jury selection. And in an order released Wednesday afternoon, Judge Cheryl Matthews said she will grant each side “an additional three peremptory challenges” which will allow them to dismiss potential jurors without having to provide a reason or explanation.

With James Crumbley’s trial set to start on March 5, Judge Matthews is expected to make a decision soon on whether the two injured students can be called to testify as well as the admission of the shooter’s journals and text messages.

This story was originally published by Scripps News Detroit, an E.W. Scripps Company.