Judge grants request that school shooter’s name not be used

Posted at 9:38 AM, March 22, 2022 and last updated 2:08 PM, June 22, 2023

By COREY WILLIAMS Associated Press

A judge has granted a prosecutor’s request that a Michigan teen charged in a fatal school shooting not be named in court during his parents’ separate criminal trial.

Oakland County Circuit Judge Cheryl Matthews in her ruling Monday ordered that Ethan Crumbley‘s name not be spoken openly in court or used in writing in the case against James and Jennifer Crumbley.

“Calling the shooter by name does not appear to be relevant to these proceedings and prohibiting its use does not appear to prejudice the defense in any way,” Matthews ruled.

Prosecutor Karen McDonald filed a motion March 18 requesting that the boy’s name be withheld.

“Shooters want to be famous,” McDonald said in a statement at the time. “It’s one of the key motivators for most shooters, and it was definitely a motivator for the Oxford shooter. He wanted to be famous and he wanted to be remembered.”

Jennifer and James Crumbley, the parents of Ethan Crumbley, a teenager accused of killing four students in a shooting at Oxford High School, appear in court for a preliminary examination on involuntary manslaughter charges in Rochester Hills, Mich., Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

“So when we repeat the Oxford shooter’s name and continuously publicize his photo, we’re contributing to future shooting,” McDonald continued. “I’m not going to be part of that. That’s why we do not repeat the shooters’ name in court or in our briefs, and that’s why we are asking the court to order that this shooter’s name not be used in open court or in public filings.”

The Associated Press names suspects identified by law enforcement in major crimes. However, in cases in which the crime is carried out seeking publicity, the AP strives to restrict the mention of the name to the minimum needed to inform the public, while avoiding descriptions that might serve a criminal’s desire for publicity or self-glorification.

Matthews on Tuesday, concerned about potential conflicts of interest, assigned independent counsel to each parent.

Because each is represented by an attorney from the same law firm, the potential for a conflict exists, Matthews said.

During their preliminary examination where they were ordered last month to stand trial, Jennifer Crumbley was represented by Shannon Smith, while Mariell Lehman represented James Crumbley.

Photographs of four students —Hana St. Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Tate Myre, 16 and Justin Shilling, 17 — sit among boquets of flowers, teddy bears and other personal items left at the memorial site on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021 outside Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., after a 15-year-old allegedly killed these four classmates, and injured seven others in a shooting inside the northern Oakland County school one week earlier. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)

The Crumbleys face involuntary manslaughter charges and are accused of making the gun used in the Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford High School available to their son, Ethan. They also are accused of failing to intervene when he showed signs of mental distress at home and at school.

Joint representation of co-defendants charged in criminal cases by attorneys from the same law firm is uncommon, Matthews said.

“The appointment of counsel will not be a substitute for the defendants’ current counsel of choice or to report back to this court,” said Matthews, adding that they will advise each defendant with regard to joint representation and potential conflicts.

The Associated Press left messages Tuesday seeking comment from Smith and Lehman.

Prosecutors initially raised the concern that using the same law firm could allow for an appeal attempt by the Crumbleys if they are convicted.

This booking photo released by the Oakland County, Mich., Sheriff’s Office shows Ethan Crumbley, 15, who is charged as an adult with murder and terrorism for a shooting that killed four fellow students and injured more at Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., authorities said Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Oakland County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Matthews said the couple will be asked at a pretrial hearing tentatively scheduled in early April if they intend to waive any potential conflict.

Their son is charged as an adult with first-degree murder, assault with intent to murder, terrorism and gun charges in the shooting at his school, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Detroit. Six other students and a teacher were wounded.

Smith and Lehman have insisted James and Jennifer Crumbley didn’t know their son might plan an attack and didn’t make the gun easy to find in their home.

His attorneys have filed a notice of an insanity defense. He is lodged alone in a cell in the Oakland County Jail’s clinic to keep him from seeing and hearing adult inmates.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald filed a motion last week requesting that his name not be spoken openly in court or used in writing in the case against his parents. McDonald said she wanted to avoid giving any notions of fame or notoriety to their son.
Williams reported from West Bloomfield, Michigan.
Ken Kusmer in Indianapolis contributed to this report.