Both parents of a Michigan school shooter were present in court Wednesday morning to make final arrangements ahead of trial, which had been set to begin Jan. 23 before the couple’s counsel decided to separate their cases over witness conflicts.
James and Jennifer Crumbley are charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter for their role in the Oxford High School shooting where their then 15-year-old son, Ethan Crumbley, killed four fellow students and wounded six more students and a staff member.
Ethan was sentenced last week to life in prison without parole, where he apologized to the court, saying, “My actions were what I chose to do. I could not stop myself. … I am a really bad person. I’ve done terrible things.”
Prosecutors have said his parents’ actions, including ignoring their son’s mental health needs and providing him access to a gun, directly contributed to the tragic shooting in November 2021.
Jennifer Crumbley’s attorney filed two new motions on Dec. 7 related to evidence provided by the prosecution that Ethan Crumbley killed and mutilated birds and evidence of a second extra-marital affair by Jennifer Crumbley – evidence the defense aims to exclude.
In the motion obtained by Court TV, titled “Motion to Exclude ‘Irrelevant “Bird Evidence,”‘ the defense describes Ethan Crumbley’s disturbing behavior, saying, “The shooter mutilated baby birds on more than one occasion, texted a friend about the details of mutilating birds, video recorded himself doing so, and photographed vile and disgusting images of his actions.” The motion also says that Ethan Crumbley intentionally hid all of the “bird evidence” from his parents.
The only piece of evidence that could have been considered, according to the defense, is a bird head that the motion says Ethan kept hidden in his room for months before putting it at the school. However, the defense says that since the parents didn’t know about the bird evidence, it should not be admissible at their trial because it would unfairly prejudice the jury.
The second motion filed by the defense was about a second alleged affair Jennifer Crumbley had when Ethan was six years old. The judge had ruled the first infidelity by the defendant would be excluded at trial, and the defense wants to ensure the same ruling applies to the second extra-marital affair.
Other evidence that the judge ruled to exclude include a Nazi coin, their home being “messy,” the presence of marijuana and alcohol in the home and the shooter’s Instagram pictures and posts of internet searches.
According to the motion, the court ruled that the time and money the Crumbleys spent horseback riding and Ethan playing violent video games were admissible.
None of the defense motions were discussed at Wednesday’s hearing. The judge focused on the rights of both defendants who have elected to separate their cases. Since Shannon Smith still represents Jennifer Crumbley, the judge said she has privileged information from the co-defendant, which she legally can’t use against him at trial.
The judge did not specify in which order the two trials would occur. However, it’s expected that each will last approximately two to three weeks. The next court appearance is set for Jan. 23, 2024, when the joint trial was expected to begin.